It’s a balancing act, restoring natural resources. Saving flora and fauna and safekeeping sensitive cultural sites involves a dual-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s important to preserve those resources for future generations, but what’s the limit of our impact on those resources? The Channel Islands National Park has been doing that since the late 1980s, and March 2010 marks the 30th anniversary of America’s 40th National Park.
The controversial eradications of black rats on Anacapa Island in 2002 and feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island from 2006 to 2008 were tough decisions to make, but overall the islands are benefiting from the removal of nonnative species.
Island hoppers today will find a fragile ecosystem well on the way to recovery, but Channel Islands National Park Superintendent Russell Galipeau said that ecological restorations need to continue through this decade.
“It’s about allowing natural processes to prevail. We had to remove the stressors,” said Galipeau, who has been superintendent of the archipelago since the summer of 2003. “What are we doing today to leave those resources unimpaired?”
By 2012 the General Management Plan will be finished for the park, but Galipeau gave a preview of things to come on the chain. Now that the feral pigs are gone, the National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy are in the middle of ridding Santa Cruz Island of nonnative flora such as the fennel the pigs helped spread throughout the mountainous island. Scorpion Rock just off Santa Cruz is being revegetated, and so is tiny Santa Barbara Island. Ice plant on Anacapa is also in the process of being removed.
“By 2016 all the ice plant will be gone,” continued Galipeau. “Most of it is getting done with volunteers, but we have to put something back, so we’ll have a small nursery on Anacapa with native plants.”
The park service will continue to monitor kelp forests surrounding all the islands, and possibly develop new campgrounds at Prisoners Harbor on Santa Cruz and Santa Rosa islands. The airstrip on San Miguel Island needs improvements, and might be a way for visitors to experience the most westerly island. There’s also talk of an interpretive area near the historic Vail and Vickers Ranch on Santa Rosa, and all the elk and deer on the windswept isle are to be removed by the end of 2011.
With the chain’s ranching era behind it, the park service will begin restricting the use of old cattle roads where even park personnel won’t be allowed to go.
“We want to keep our footprint fairly small out there,” he said.