What are you doing at the meadow, and why are you doing it?
Currently, the non-native weeds are being sprayed by organic weed killer, because the fire department considers them a hazard once they grow tall and dry out. Controlling the weeds now also prevents them from dropping seeds and reduces the amount of weeds that grow each year. Also, the meadow will ultimately will be restored to a more natural state that would have existed when the Chumash people lived there. When the weeds are allowed to grow tall and produced seeds, this complicates future restoration work.
We are currently working to secure restoration permits, and the future goals of the project are: (1) restore native habitat that is visually pleasing and will attract a greater variety of wildlife. (2) protect the integrity of the historic Chumash village. (3) reduce erosion and vandalism that leads to degradation of the meadow’s cultural resources. (4) enhance stewardship of the site that is respectful of Chumash heritage. (5) provide species that are significant to Chumash peoples. (6) retain the public trail to the beach.
Can’t you control the weeds another way?
We’ve tried many different approaches over the past few years. Originally the county of Santa Barbara used mowing machines each year to comply with fire regulations, but the Chumash understandably objected to such mechanical use on their sacred land. Since Channel Islands Restoration has taken up the mantle, we’ve attempted to use hand held weed-whackers, which did not stop the spread of seeds. We would hand pull the invasives from the meadow, but we do not have approval from the Chumash to do so on their anthropologically important site. As a last resort, we have turned to applying organic weed-killer to the meadow to kill the plants.
What are you spraying? What’s that smell? Why is it blue?
We are spraying the weeds with non-toxic weed killer made out of common foods like orange peel, clove and/or cinnamon. As such, there is a strong odor of citrus or cloves during the day we spray, and the following day or two. We also add water-soluble blue dye to the solution for two reasons: so that people know where we have recently sprayed, and to aid the applicators in their work. Although this may look strange, and blue meadows certainly don’t look natural, the dye is designed to fade within one to two days. We are licensed by the California department of pesticide regulation (License Number: 32474)
Is the weed-killer dangerous or toxic?
No. Although the spray does kill plants, it is safe to use around people and pets. In fact, organic sprays of this type are used to control weeds on organic farms, and are the only weed killer allowed to be used around schools by California law. Although our staff work with the spray all the time, none of us have had any ill effects from using it. In fact, it does not have any effect when it comes in contact with bare skin. However, California law requires that we keep people from coming in contact with the spay while it is still wet, so we put up signs warning people to stay on the trail and to keep their dogs on leashes. Unless you have an allergy to citrus, clove or cinnamon, there is no reason that just smelling the spray should have any ill effects on you or your pet.
I like the plants as they are now. Why change the meadow?
Few people are aware of the problems that non-native plants pose to native animals. Although the plants that come up after the rains at the meadow present an attractive green color, they are mostly non-native European plants. These are pretty while they are green (before they dry out after the rainy season) but these plants provide very low habitat quality for native animals. Hundreds of agencies have proven that when non-native weeds are replaced by native plants like perennial grasses and shrubs, the variety and number of native animals increases dramatically. Unfortunately, the non-native by are out-competing the few native plants that are present, including the Datura wrightii, this plant is known as momoy or toloache by native peoples, and is considered sacred.
Will the restoration cause the meadow to erode?
No. Installing perennial native plants that maintain their root structure will actually help the bluff to resist erosion. We will also be planting shrubs much like the already existing lemonade bush along the bluff.
Do you have permission to do this?
Yes. We have a Memorandum of Agreement with the county. We have made it available to the public at cirweb.org/hmp/moa.
Who owns the meadow?
The county of Santa Barbara parks division.
Why haven’t you planted anything?
Before we can begin restoration, we need to submit a final restoration plan, and obtain the necessary permits. We are finishing a draft plan for the restoration. Once completed, we will post the plan on our web site, hold a public meeting and then submit it to the county planning department. If they decide that we need a permit to proceed, we will begin that process, which can often take a year or more.
Is the spray getting into the ocean?
We do not spray if there is a significant chance of rain in the forecast. Also, the spay is designed to evaporate and decompose soon after it dries. Only a small amount of spray is needed to control the weeds, so it is very unlikely that any spray is running off into the ocean. If you are experiencing discomfort in the water after it has rained, it is much more likely that you are being exposed to the many synthetic toxic chemicals or waste products that are entering our local creeks from non-organic agriculture or from other sources.
What is Channel Islands Restoration?
CIR is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation and restoration of native habitat to support animal populations. We also provide environmental education for both adults and school children. We have taken more than 3,300 kids on field trips to the channel islands.
Does CIR have a license to apply weed killer?
Yes. We are licensed by the California department of pesticide regulation (license number: 32474) Is a permit needed to control the weeds at the meadow? No permit is needed to control weeds, and in fact, the fire department requires that the work be done just like they require homeowners to clear weeds around their homes. One future restoration begins, which involves installing plants, a coastal development permit may be needed. It is up the county planning department to make this determination.
Why was the bluff covered with matting, and why did it produce so much trash?
In 2016 large storms and possible flooding were predicted. In preparation, CIR installed biodegradable coconut fiber matting on the bluff. Unfortunately, the site was vandalized and the sandbags we used to weigh down the matting were removed and spread around the beach. We were unaware of this at first, and unfortunately they made an unsightly mess. Several people were involved in picking up this trash, including CIR staff. We apologies that this part of our attempt to preserve the bluff made an unsightly mess and we now have a staff member who visits the site regularly to prevent problems like this from reoccurring.
Are you working with the Chumash on this project? Do you know the site is sacred?
Yes and yes. We have met regularly with the California Indian advisory council and are in consultation with the barbareño band of Chumash Indians. The Chumash have made numerous suggestions to how we can improve our draft plan for restoring the site, and these have been incorporated into our planning. We are quite aware that the site is sacred to the Chumash people and has history and sentimental value to many other people. Our restoration plan is intended to return the meadow to a state that would have existed when the Chumash lived there.
When will the actual restoration planting begin?
We are finishing a draft plan for the restoration. Once completed, we will post the plan on our web site, hold a public meeting and then submit it to the county planning department. If they decide that we need a permit to proceed, we will begin that process, which can often take a year or more.