Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Next Phase of Restoration at the SB Zoo

CIR and the Santa Barbara Zoo have just begun the second phase of habitat restoration along the bird refuge at the Zoo, and volunteers will have plenty of opportunities to participate, starting this month!

A CIR crew removes invasive Myoporum
trees at the Santa Barbara Zoo

The 42 acre Andree Clark Bird Refuge is one of Santa Barbara's most beautiful natural areas and provides habitat to 228 bird species, 43 of which nest there. It adjoins the 30 acre Santa Barbara Zoo, an organization that, like CIR, is dedicated to restoration and enhancement of native habitat.

In 2010, CIR was given a grant in partnership with the SB Zoo to restore the 2.1 acre margin between the Refuge and the Zoo that was, until recently, covered by a mix of ever-encroaching invasive plants and a few remaining natives. The Wetland Margin Enhancement Project was designed into two phases to remediate this situation, and both phases involved removal of Myoporum trees and many other invasive plants.  In 2011 and 2012, Phase I of this restoration project exceeded its goals and successfully treated approximately one-third of the shoreline along the Zoo, replacing invasives with native flora.

Phase I started in 2010, funded by a grant from the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project (SCWRP). The City of Santa Barbara removed invasive Arundo along the Zoo property during Phase I. CIR and Zoo staff and volunteers restored a total of 0.74 acres; 44 invasive trees were removed and 930 native plants (114 of those being trees) were installed. Over a span of 12 volunteer events, we had 365 volunteers help with this project, contributing a total of 1,460 volunteer hours. More than 100 volunteers showed up at the first volunteer day!  In addition to volunteers from CIR and the Zoo, volunteers from Citrix Online, the United Way Day of Caring, and Ojai Valley School participated.

A section of the wetland margin after restoration

This year, Phase II of the project started with a second grant from SCWRP and one from the County of Santa Barbara's Coastal Resource Enhancement Fund (CREF).  The CREF grant is paid for from funds that mitigate the impacts from the Point Arguello, Point Pedernales, and Santa Ynez Unit offshore oil and gas projects. In Phase II, CIR is focusing on treating the remaining acres of the site, which contained dense stands of Myoporum trees, a number of Eucalyptus and small palms, plus smaller amounts of other invasive plants. A CIR crew spent three days felling 220 trees from within the project area in September. With help from Zoo staff we spent two additional days hauling and chipping the trees. The piled chips will be used for mulching during the upcoming plant installation scheduled to take place during the next few months.

CIR and the Zoo are contributing time and manpower to the project, but most of the work is done by community volunteers.  We will plant 1,300 native plants starting in November. At the end of each work day, participating volunteers can then visit the Zoo free of admission. Watch for e-mail announcements regarding planting days, as CIR will soon be offering a series of volunteer opportunities at the Zoo!

CIR to Plant 8,000 Natives on San Nicolas Island

Native plants growing at the San Nicolas Island
nursery include needle grass, box thorn,
and island sage brush 

Channel Islands Restoration will plant 8,000 natives on San Nicolas Island starting in December.  CIR grew the plants in the island nursery that was rebuilt by CIR staff and volunteers in 2012.  This latest round of plant propagation was done under contract with the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and a Navy contractor.  CIR nursery manager Sheri Mayta has been tending plants in the nursery since spring, and they are almost ready to be planted.

Half of the plants will augment habitat for the Island Night Lizard, which is endemic to just three of the Channel Islands.  The lizard was recently removed from the endangered species list because of conservation efforts led by the Navy on San Nicolas and San Clemente Islands and by the Park Service on Santa Barbara Island.  Navy staff on San Nicolas have designed a project to enhance the habitat of the lizard by planting species the lizard is known to favor.  This includes California box thorn and two species of native cactus.  In the wild, these plants grow in impenetrable thickets that protect the lizards from predators.   CIR staff and volunteers will be planting these thorny plants in lizard habitat.  The plantings have also been designed to help control erosion.

Two species of cactus (prickly pear and Cholla)
growing in the San Nicolas Island nursery

The remainder of the plants will be installed where several wind generators are being constructed.  The generators will provide a renewable energy source for a portion of the islands electricity needs, and the native plants will help control erosion where the towers are installed.  CIR staff and volunteers will be kept very busy planting and caring for these precious island plants in the coming months. Watch for upcoming volunteer announcements!

CIR Receives Grants for Youth Program

CIR is organizing several service learning trips for young people to the Channel Islands in 2015, starting as early as May.  The CIR youth program provides kids from low-income school districts with trips to Channel Islands National Park, during which they learn about conservation and island ecology, and participate in a habitat restoration stewardship project. 

4th Graders from Ventura on Anacapa Island with CIR
For many kids, these trips provide their first opportunity to travel on a boat or to visit a National Park.  They also visit the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and experience the rich marine environment right in their own backyards!  CIR raises the funding needed to transport the kids by bus to the harbor in Ventura or Oxnard, to cover the cost of the group’s island boat trip, and to cover the expenses of CIR staff needed to organize and lead the trips. 

Most public schools cannot afford field trips of this type, which is why CIR has been raising funds to lead school trips since 2004.   Since the commencement of our school program, we have taken 2,216 young people to the islands, accompanied by 369 teachers and parent-chaperones.

4th graders watch common dolphins while en route to Anacapa Island

CIR is funding the 2015 school trips with grants recently received from the Minnesota-based Bentson Foundation, from the Men's Garden Club of Santa Barbara, and from many donations made by CIR members.  In May, we plan to work with two 6th grade classes from Cleveland School in Santa Barbara on island trips.  CIR Board member Cindy Kimmick will be volunteering much of her time toward organizing these trips.

CIR works with schools and youth groups on mainland projects as well.  We have worked with classes from San Marcos High School, the Open Alternative School in Goleta, Girls Incorporated, the Rein Teen Tours, and more.   These groups and others have also volunteered with CIR at Lake Los Carneros, Carpinteria State Beach, the Santa Barbara Zoo, and at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve.

CIR staff demonstrate planting techniques to
youth at the San Marcos Foothills
CIR has also worked extensively with the Santa Barbara County Probation Department on an alternative sentencing program for teen offenders.  Young people in this program were convicted of non-violent crimes and are sentenced to spend their weekends performing community service.  Rather than serving their sentences doing such things as picking up trash or cleaning floors, the Probation Department approached CIR in 2008 with the idea of us working with these young people on habitat restoration projects.  CIR staff spends quality time with the participants, educating them about conservation and restoration, and ensuring that they have a positive experience.

CIR has worked with nearly 90 schools and youth groups at various locations on the Channel Islands and mainland.  Our youth program has touched many lives with conservation values.  These kids not only visit wonderful natural areas, but they also have the opportunity to make a difference by restoring the beautiful places they visit.  Our program is designed to instill conservation values in young people, particularly those from low-income, urban families.

CIR would like to thank all of those who contribute to help make this program an ongoing success.   We are glad to have support from foundations and other groups, but a major amount of the funding for our school and youth program comes from the support of CIR members—and we thank you!
Youth plants a native along Refugio Creek
on the Gaviota Coast.

Who Helps CIR When We Donate Our Time?

Who helps fund the un-fundable restoration projects, the orphan projects and the important environmental and education work even when limited and short-term grant funding runs out?  There is rarely enough funding to keep the mustard from sprouting, to hold back the cape ivy, to protect rare plants and animals or to take kids to the islands.  Channel Islands Restoration relies on our friends, supporters and members to fund these important needs when grants are unavailable or run out.

CIR volunteers and staff remove invasive Sahara mustard
 on San Nicolas Island.  CIR donated staff time for many years 
to remove the mustard, long before the Navy
had funding for the project.
Even when restoration funding is available for a project, it is often designed to last only a year.  Habitat restoration is seldom completed on that kind of time scale, so CIR often donates the time of our restoration staff, our Volunteer Coordinator, and our Executive Director when initial funding runs out.  Throughout our history, CIR has also helped kick-off worthy environmental restoration and educational projects by volunteering our services, even when funding was unavailable to cover our costs.  

Long before there was funding to pull the invasive Sahara Mustard on San Nicolas Island, CIR staff organized trips there to remove the mustard where it was threatening rare plants.  On San Clemente Island, CIR has donated considerable staff time to remove iceplant from sensitive dune habitat, when funding for restoration projects on the island was used mostly for other priorities.   CIR continues to donate time to organize restoration work on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands and at various locations on the mainland. 

CIR’s school program for next year is supported 
chiefly by individual donors, members and 
small-sized service groups.  
Donating time and services is what being a non-profit organization is all about, and it sets us apart from the for-profit corporate world.  Contributions from individual donors and members make pro bono work possible, and we rely on the public to help support this kind of work.  As an example, our school program for next year is supported chiefly by individual donors, members and small-sized service groups.  

CIR staff and our volunteer Board of Directors are highly committed to our mission, but our work would not happen without the support of our members.  When you consider giving to a cause or charity as we approach the end of the year, please remember how much CIR relies on you.  Your contributions make it possible for us to do the important work of restoring precious habitat and instilling the values of environmental conservation in young people and others.  We can only be successful with the help of people like you!

CIR volunteers and staff remove iceplant on San Clemente Island.
 CIR donated staff time for many years to remove the iceplant.
CIR Hosts Rein Teen Tours, Project California

In the summer of 2014, for the fifth straight year CIR was host to a dedicated group of young environmental travelers from New York State and Connecticut who were participants in the Rein Teen Tours community service program, Project California.  The goal of Project California is not only to give back to the global community, but for participants to learn and grow through their experiences. This Rein Community Service project was designed to beautify Santa Barbara County while increasing awareness and promoting action to help the environment. 

In order to make a lasting impact on the environment, participants volunteer with the same project for the length of the program.  This group of teens volunteered with CIR in the San Marcos Foothills over the course of two weeks, earning many hours of Summer Community Service credit.  CIR staff, Jared Logan, was their field leader throughout the tour and provided the teens a well-rounded outdoor experience.  Jared guided them on habitat restoration tasks at a variety of project sites, inducing hand-weeding, mulching, hand-watering of new plantings, and removing invasive fennel.  He also took them on nature hikes and offered educational talks about the local geography and wildlife, how watersheds work, and discussed conservation and the importance of biodiversity.  Jared reported that the teens were consistently engaged and productive and that overall the program was a great success.

During their tour, the teens enjoyed a fun college campus stay at UC Santa Barbara and arrived by bus to the CIR project sites with their counselor, Jess.  Jared was impressed with Jess’ strong work ethic and enthusiasm, and said that she went above and beyond in helping to inspire the kids!  Her energy was contagious and the kids followed her lead, proving a perfect example of passionate leadership, which resulted in positive results and the achievement of project goals.  Jared felt rewarded by helping the kids learn more about the outdoors, native plants, and ecology.  He hopes that this experience will be long-lasting and perhaps they will go on to do more work in restoration or in the biological world, and at least become concerned citizens who vote in favor of environmental issues.  Jess subsequently wrote to CIR praising Jared and the staff who helped coordinate the program!  Her delightful correspondence follows this article. CIR looks forward to continued involvement in Project California, as educating teens about conservation is an important part of our mission.  For more information about Rein Teen Tours:  www.reinteentours.com

Hi CIR Team! 

My name is Jessica Levy. I had the pleasure of volunteering at the San Marcos Foothills location under the guidance of Jared Logan. I was working with a group of students, ages 14 to 17, through Rein Teen Tours. We worked with Jared for 2 weeks. I wanted to say thank you for working with our small group and making it a great experience. On our first day, Mr. Ken Owen provided an interactive introduction to the project, encouraging the students to taste mustard seeds, teaching them about native and non-native species of plants by touching them and smelling them, and about the history of the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. The students did not know each other prior to the trip and literally had spent less than 24 hours in California before this introduction. This fun activity made it much more comfortable for the students to talk to each other and the content was relatable for teenagers.

The kids responded positively to Jared's laid back personality and his sense of humor. He answered more than enough silly questions and still managed to keep the kids on task. Jared was able to gauge how much and what type of work to expect from the kids. For several of them, it was their first experience volunteering, and for some, the first time they used a garden tool. Or, as one kid put it on the bus after a morning of hard work, "I've never used a shovel in my life. Or a hoe. I need to thank Jared for that." Ha! We really had fun! The kids especially liked being able to identify plants, eating the edible plants, and getting into deep conversations with Jared about the drought and general environmental conservation and restoration. Of the 5 students that volunteered, all of them told me they tried to take short showers each day while on the trip to reduce water use. Jared took our group on a mini adventure everyday, leading us on a hike on the walking trail. It was especially exciting for me when locals stopped to say thank you, and our students were able to accurately describe why they were pulling out particular plants and how it would impact the wildlife in the area. Of all the projects, our group arrived back at the dorms first each day. All 5 of the students retreated into their rooms for naps before lunch, even though I offered to supervise them in the game room or at the gym. They were truly beat after a morning of digging up plants and mulching. I was sad to see the project end after 2 weeks. I would have liked to have spent my final week working outside with the kids and Jared. Jared's demeanor is welcoming and a great fit for working with young people. We had many memorable moments while volunteering and Jared is a big reason why it was so enjoyable. Also, the kids say Jared is "awesome" because he brought cold bottled water and granola bars everyday. I'm pretty sure 1 particular camper ate about 4 a day. We were definitely comfortable during our volunteer work.

Again, thank you for welcoming me and the students on this project. I think I made the other camp counselors jealous because I always had a smile on my face and a story to tell after volunteering each day. Thank you to Ken and Jared and the behind the scenes people that I didn't get to meet, like Miss Linda Benedik.

Wishing you lots of rain! Maybe I'll see you next summer, Jess