Monday, August 10, 2015

Wrap-Up at Mission Canyon: Achievements

Volunteer removes a mature Euphorbia plant.
Since January, CIR has been involved in a mainland restoration project at Mission Canyon in Santa Barbara to help eradicate a growing population of an extremely invasive plant, Carnation Spurge (Euphorbia terracina).  This plant was recently discovered spreading through this residential area, down the road from the Santa Barbara Botanic Gardens, and its proliferation has exploded with the late winter rains.  With grant funding from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the County of Santa Barbara partnered with CIR to stop Carnation Spurge in its tracks and to keep it from spreading even further. 

CIR held four volunteer events at Mission Canyon with CIR staff, 64 volunteers, and 4 CIR Board Members who helped to remove this non-native plant species before the next season of rainfall.  Much of the work was accomplished by basic hand removal and solarization (placing black plastic over the plants depriving them of light).  This project could not have been completed without the hard work and dedication of our volunteers!  We thank the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden for their support on this project by providing free admission at the end of the volunteer event to those who participated to help control this invasive plant population.  We also thank the Mission Canyon Association for all their support throughout this restoration project.  The California Invasive Plant Council is exploring possible future funding options to continue the efforts being made to purge this Spurge.

CIR to Offer Fall Trips to Santa Rosa Island

CIR staff and volunteers remove iceplant on Santa Rosa Island.
CIR is excited to offer a series of restoration trips to Santa Rosa Island this fall, in partnership with Channel Islands National Park.  Supported by Channel Islands National Park, these 4- and 5-day trips are designed to accomplish important environmental restoration projects, while giving volunteers the opportunity to experience some of the most beautiful and remote sections of that vast island.

Volunteers will help restore the unique “Cloud Forest” habitat on Santa Rosa Island.  “Cloud Forest” refers to the ability of the rare island oak trees and other vegetation that collect fog on their branches and leaves and naturally provide water for the island and its wildlife and ecosystem.  A long history of grazing and browsing on the high ridges of the island stripped away vegetation and caused deep soil erosion.  This project will start to restore these ridges, and therefore all of the island, by slowing erosion and replacing the lost fog-water-harvesting vegetation. 

Volunteers learn about island conservation, history, geology and ecology while helping to restore Santa Rosa’s unique island habitat.  The volunteer work adds to the enjoyment and understanding of the challenges involved with managing such a large island.  CIR’s Santa Rosa trips are structured to provide plenty of satisfying volunteer work, yet also include time to enjoy this vast and spectacular island.  Volunteers will stay in indoor lodging at the Santa Rosa Island Field Station, operated by CSU Channel Islands.  Watch for email announcements regarding trips this fall!

Sarah Chaney (NPS ecologist) directs CIR volunteers.

San Marcos Foothills Preserve Keeping CIR Busy!

Plantings at Cieneguitas Creek.
Since 2010, in partnership with the San Marcos Foothills Coalition and the County of Santa Barbara, CIR has been proud to work on several restoration projects at the 200-acre San Marcos Foothills Preserve in Santa Barbara, one of the most ecologically significant open public spaces in the county.  The Preserve is located in the foothills between Santa Barbara and Goleta, and is a County open space.  Funding in recent years for these projects was provided by REI and the San Marcos Foothills Coalition.  These projects were designed to improve the native plant communities that provide resources to the native animal species, as well as enhance the public experience along trails.

Volunteers at the Spring near the Antone Road entrance.
In the last six months at the Preserve, CIR has held 12 volunteer events and over 250 volunteers have donated their time and energy on this public trail enhancement project.  CIR staff, board members, and volunteers have removed several invasive plant species at the Spring, a natural fresh water source, and at restoration sites along Atascadero and Cieneguitas Creeks.  Over 50 native Purple Needlegrass plants have also been planted by CIR and volunteers by the Preserve trailhead at Via Gaitero Road.  Four UC Santa Barbara organizations: Alpha Phi Omega Psi Chapter, Wildlife Society, Naked Voices, and the Hermanas Unidas brought groups of energetic and diligent students to battle these non-native plants.  Groups from Stanford Alumni, the SB Rotaract Club, San Marcos High School AAPLE Program, and SB School of Squash have also joined in restoring this beautiful Preserve.  REI provided free REI Stewardship 2015 t-shirts and REI store coupons to volunteers who participated in these habitat restoration events.  In the near future, we will be spreading mulch in preparation for winter rains.  

Lupinus succulentus (Arroyo lupine) at the Preserve.
CIR has also held 3 educational tours since January.  Biologist Mark Holmgren led two bird walks in January and February of 2015, and gave participants an opportunity to view resident and migratory birds and other wildlife, and how they use the land we are working to preserve.  CIR’s Executive Director Ken Owen led a plant walk in March of 2015, and participants experienced the many plant species of California native wildflowers in bloom.  Wayne Ferren, CIR’s Principal Ecologist, also led a walk for the California Naturalist program in November of 2014.  These fun educational tours were offered free as a part of a developing docent program, and CIR hopes to offer more educational walks in the future!

Upcoming volunteer opportunities at the San Marcos Foothills
Preserve from 9AM—12:30PM:
Saturday, August 22
Saturday, September 26

Volunteers pose at the Via Gaitero Road entrance.