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Saturday, November 23, 2013

CIR Continues to Conserve Anacapa Island – Planting, Weeding, Watering!

CIR Continues to Conserve Anacapa
Island – Planting, Weeding, Watering!
By Linda Benedik

2013 was another busy year of habitat restoration on Anacapa Island!  As in prior years, CIR volunteer workdays typically occurred on Wednesdays, when Channel Islands National Park (NPS) regularly transports supplies and personnel to the island and provides volunteers with round-trip transportation.  CIR administrative staff recruits individuals and groups for the workdays, and then meets volunteers before departure at the Channel Islands National Park (NPS) headquarters to ensure paperwork is complete, and that everyone is prepared for boarding the park boat.

In late Summer, NPS initiated a pre-requisite briefing presented by Park Superintendent, Russell Galipeau, who discusses the purpose of self-assessment, and encourages volunteers to avoid “normalizing risk.”  This presentation is being produced by NPS into an instructional video that volunteers will be required to view before travel on the park boat. NPS boat captains continue to brief volunteers on the day’s marine conditions and to give a comprehensive safety orientation for park boat travel.  Once volunteers arrive on the island, their workday is led by CIR field staff and/or NPS personnel, assisted by volunteer work leaders, who are specially-trained to oversee the activities of less experienced volunteers.

CIR provides a great deal of staff time to the Anacapa Project, both administratively with behind-the-scenes volunteer coordination, and out in the field with management of volunteers and their activities.  A familiar face on Anacapa is that of CIR field staff, Aaron Echols.  This year, Aaron’s work on the island has revolved around invasive plant treatment, preparing planting sites, and working with volunteers to install and care for nursery-grown native plants.
Before volunteers arrive on the scene, Aaron locates areas of high iceplant (Malephora crocea) resurgence and seedling recruitment for removal. Other species of high concern that occasionally require his attention are: Cretan Lavatera, Crystalline Iceplant, and Small-flowered iceplant.  Recently, a soil penetrant called “EZ-Wet” has been added to the planting water to enhance initial watering of the new plants, and a product called “Cloud Cover” has been applied to new plantings to reduce transpiration water loss in the first critical period after planting.

Aaron manages the island’s rudimentary but effective irrigation system to facilitate watering of remote plantings.    The system comprises a network of ¾ inch plastic tubing, plus strategically-located 55 gallon water storage drums along the lines.  Installation of the water distribution system replaced backpacking of water, and is easily extended to additional areas as plantings are expanded.
Tending to the island’s nursery is also part of the regular maintenance Aaron provides.  His work ranges from patching holes in the netting cover to prevent pesky sparrows from entering, to pricking out seedlings from flats to containers, transplanting plants to larger pots, organizing supplies and maintaining the nursery watering system.

In preparation for the arrival of volunteer groups, which have included CIR volunteers, as well as high school groups, Aaron can be found “scalping” through dead iceplant thatch, using a power weed trimmer, digging planting holes with a gas-powered soil auger, filling water storage drums, and bringing plants and tools to the worksites.  Once volunteers arrive, Aaron provides an orientation and offers instruction while supervising their activities – weeding, planting, watering – until he waves goodbye as they depart the island.  Aaron has worked with multiple volunteer groups on the same day, and may supervise several consecutive days of volunteers on the island. He is truly an asset to the various volunteer programs engaged on the island, and to the restoration of Anacapa’s natural habitat.
Ventura County Master Gardener, Kelle Green reveals that, in the past year, a total of 25,000 native plants were grown in the island’s nursery, which was constructed by CIR and the NPS in 2010. The volunteer nursery crew grows all the plants used in island restoration from seed collected on the island. As planting season resumed in late Fall 2013, volunteer groups on Anacapa are planting 150-250 plants per workday, depending on their group size.

In addition to the many individual volunteers that CIR recruits from a variety of sources, this year we were also joined by employees of several local businesses who arranged for a group volunteer workday, including REI, Deckers Outdoors, The North Face, Amgen, Citrix Online, and the Santa Barbara Zoo.  There were also student groups from Buena, Oxnard, Ventura, Rio Mesa and Pacifica High Schools , as well as UCSB, who arranged service days on the island.  In the spring of 2013, REI sponsored two very special weekend day trips to Anacapa, and volunteers signed up for these trips at the CIR booth during the REI Oxnard Grand Opening festivities.  Anacapa Island and the NPS welcomed two REI-funded volunteer groups of 30 strong, who traveled to the Park on an Island Packers boat for two great days of habitat restoration.

During the month of June, CIR volunteer trips paused while the Island’s large breeding population of Western Gulls produced and raised this year’s ‘crop’ of chicks.  We were gratified to see young chicks enjoying the all-important shade of newly-established native plants.  As CIR trips resumed in July, volunteers continued their work troweling and removing invasive plant species.  Throughout the dry summer months into early fall, watering became a huge priority.

In September, Kelle Green reports that the Master Gardeners were “really cooking” in the nursery, transplanting seedlings to 4x6 tree pots, and preparing for a productive volunteer planting season.  Suddenly, the government shutdown closed Channel Islands National Park, and restoration activities came to a halt.  The island was closed to visitors, including nursery crew and volunteers.  The shutdown threw the nursery’s plant production off-stride, and set back nursery plant production for this season. By mid-November, the nursery was just starting to recover from the disruption that had been caused by the shutdown.
The nursery currently has many plants to go out, including giant coreopsis, island buckwheat, seablite, alkali heath, seaside daisy, island lotus, golden yarrow, saltgrass, cliff aster and, California aster.  

Volunteer Work Leader, Ron Nichols, has made many trips to Anacapa Island throughout the year.  He has supervised volunteers in the winter rainy season, when planting was the focus, and worked with volunteers during the dry summer season, when watering and removing invasives like crystalline iceplant were the primary tasks.  On a personal level, he’s enjoyed seeing Anacapa’s Western Gulls go through their annual island nesting rituals, as chicks hatch and scurry around their renovated native habitat, and then fledge.  In describing his volunteer experiences, the most valuable benefit Ron receives from his frequent service on Anacapa Island is that he can keep his eye on the plants that he’s put into the ground himself, and watch them mature.  This gives him a feeling that he has become a part of these plants, and subsequently, “a part of the island.” This gives him a sense of great personal satisfaction and “ownership,” which are rewards shared by other volunteers, as well.

Frequent CIR volunteer and recently trained Work Leader, Mike Buratti, echoed Ron’s feelings of pride for his work on Anacapa and is grateful to have participated in the island’s habitat restoration.  As we enter the fall season, Mike reports he’s been doing a lot more planting than pulling – which is a good thing, he says, as there is simply a lot less iceplant to pull!  With volunteer watering efforts increasing, he believes that native plantings are having a much better rate of success presently.  When asked what keeps bringing him back to Anacapa, Mike heartily responded, “Progress!”   To work in an area previously covered with an iceplant carpet, which he helped to pull with his own hands, and to see that area now thriving with natives that he planted, Mike describes it a personally gratifying experience, to be able to witness such progress.

Through inspired partnerships, and a great deal of combined effort, the NPS, CIR and many, many volunteers have been a part of this progress that continues to change the face of East Anacapa Island, and return the island habitat to its natural state.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

REI Volunteers with Channel Islands Restoration on Anacapa

Employees from the new REI store in Oxnard volunteered for Channel Islands Restoration and the Park Service on Anacapa Island in March REI purchased passage on Island Packers for nearly 30 volunteers and help up plant natives and remove invasive iceplant.  The photo above shows Middle and West Anacapa Island with Santa Cruz Island in the distance.  This photo was our most popular post ever on Facebook with around 3900 views and nearly 160 "likes."

REI volunteers on the Vanguard prior to departure.

The Vanguard after dropping off passengers at East Anacapa Island.

REI volunteers carry plants and other supplies to the restoration site on Anacapa

Giant Coreopsis (Leptosyne gigantea) in bloom on Anacapa Island (with REI volunteers in the background)

Native goldfields (Lasthenia gracilis) in bloom on Anacapa (with REI volunteers in the background)

Close up of goldfields (Lasthenia gracilis)

Looking west toward West Anacapa with Santa Cruz Island in the distance

REI volunteers on a hike on Anacapa after volunteering

REI supports CIR with grant funding and volunteer help. Join them at their three-day grand opening event for their new store in Oxnard March 22-24. CIR and other environmental non-profits will have information booths, and REI will provide breakfast and great giveaways! For more information, follow this link: