Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office



Project Title: Catalina Island Coastal and Maritime Habitat Restoration (FFS #R8FD)

State: California

Initial Project Description: The preservation and restoration of natural biodiversity is one of the key conservation challenges of our time, particularly in an island ecosystem. After habitat loss, invasive species have been identified as the second greatest threat to the preservation of biodiversity worldwide and likely the greatest contributor to species extinctions in island ecosystems (M.N. Clout and C.R. Veitch, “Turning the tide: the eradication of invasive species,” 2002).

The Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC) has been actively treating roadsides of invasive plant species for at least 15 years, as funding and/or staff became available. In 2004, the Catalina Island Conservancy Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program (CHIRP) was created to control invasive species on the Island. Then, in August 2009, the Invasive Species Roadside Treatment Project was launched when the CIC received $528,730 in funding to support the CHIRP eradication and control program. Of that total, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) contributed $211,000 in ARRA funds.

Currently, the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office Partners Program (Carlsbad Partners Program) is working on three projects with the CIC:

  1. West End Habitat Improvement and Restoration Project (funded via a Private Stewardship Grant [PSG])
  2. Island-Wide Invasives Removal and Island Fox monitoring (funded via PSG)
  3. Invasive Species Roadside Treatment Project (funded via the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009).

In addition to the Carlsbad Partners Program, the CIC enlisted the support of the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, the American Conservation Experience (ACE), and the AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps (NCCC) to conduct manual and chemical control of invasive plants along all roads and trails. It will take approximately 18 months to complete and will encompass 10,155 upland acres, including 223 miles of roads and trails. This project will require two contracted Invasive Plant Biological Technicians, each with a three to four person crew, and an existing CIC staff of four.

The Carlsbad Partners Program is a habitat restoration cost-sharing program for private landowners and Tribes. It was established to provide technical and financial assistance for the conservation-minded landowner interested in providing suitable habitat for fish and wildlife on their property. The program works with partners to help restore, protect, and enhance habitats for the benefit of federal trust species, as well as engages the public with environmental education and outreach programs.

The CIC is dedicated to keeping the Island healthy and wild for today and for future generations. It is the steward of the Island and continually strives to balance human desires and the needs of the land. The CIC accomplishes this challenge through a balance of conservation, education, and recreation.

The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service is the primary federal agency that works with private landowners to help them conserve, maintain, and improve their natural resources. The Agency emphasizes voluntary, science-based conservation; technical assistance; partnerships; incentive-based programs; and cooperative problem solving at the community level.

ACE was founded in 2004 to engage young Americans and international participants in community service through long-term, committed volunteerism. ACE uses environmental conservation work and service projects as a means of providing service-learning opportunities to their American team members, as well as teaching citizenship and global citizenship values, developing job skills, and promoting an appreciation of diversity.

AmeriCorps NCCC is a program created specifically for 18 to 24 year-olds, who serve on teams of eight to twelve in regions from coast to coast. The Pacific Region serves Alaska, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the territories of Guam and Samoa. Teams are dispatched across their respective regions on projects that usually last six to eight weeks. Corps members must complete at least 1700 hours of service during the 10-month program. In exchange for their service, they receive $5,350 to help pay for college, or to pay for school loans.

Description of Project Area

Location: Catalina Island, the third largest of the eight California Channel Islands, is located approximately 26 miles South-southwest off the coast of Long Beach, California. This project encompasses the entire Island and will result in the treatment of transportation corridors for invasive species on all roads and trails.

Landowner/Project Manager: The Catalina Island Conservancy (CIC)

Size: Catalina Island is 48,000 acres. A 200-foot buffer along 223 miles of roads and trails will be treated throughout the CIC’s 42,000 acres of ownership. The total actual survey and treatment acreage is 10,155 acres.

Purpose/Need of Project: Roadways and trails have a great influence on the dispersal of invasive species. Invasive plant seeds attach to tires, road graders, scrapers, boots, and peoples’ clothing. To reduce this threat, the CIC must reduce the amount of weed seed reaching road and trail surfaces, thus limiting their distribution Island-wide of an otherwise local species.

Although the CIC has been treating roadsides for the past several years, it wasn’t until the last few years that the CIC has become highly skilled in treating, monitoring, and most importantly, maintaining treatments to assure that any work completed will not be overlooked in the future.

Goals: The goals of the treatment project include:

  • Preventing the introduction of new species by monitoring major introduction routes and eliminating arrivals, or keeping them from establishing on main transportation routes.
  • Eliminating or reducing the spread of priority invasive plant species by controlling them along dispersal corridors, such as roads and trails.
  • Eradicating incipient species and populations to zero density before they become widespread, damaging, and costly to manage.
  • Targeting select infestations of widespread species at sites of high conservation value.

Methods: These goals will be accomplished using the following methods:

  • Awareness – Development and implementation of preventative measures by the CIC and incorporating these into the operations of other Island entities.
  • Prevention – All residents, staff, and visitors to the Island will be educated to become aware of the routes of introduction by ensuring that their own clothing, pets, as well as recreation and commercial equipment, are free of plants, animals, seed, and soil, and also ensuring that boats, aircraft, vehicles, and heavy equipment are maintained free of these contaminants.
  • Exclusion – Because several watersheds have been identified as relatively weed-free, roadside invasive plants will be heavily controlled in these high conservation value areas. Users will be educated about how to clean vehicles before entering these areas.
  • Control – A combination of chemical and manual control methods will be utilized to clear all species away from all roads. Even if the entire population is untreatable, it is still very important to create a setback to prevent transportation of weed seeds into previously uninfested areas.

Timeframe: While long-term treatment is critical for seeing invasive plant populations all the way to eradication and/or total control, intense short-term treatment efforts are important to reduce large populations to manageable population sizes.

This intense roadside treatment is scheduled for 18 months. Two full seasons of treatments will be accomplished during that timeframe.

Specific Benefits: Invasive plants often out-compete native plants for resources. Flax-leaved broom, harding grass, and fennel have been shown to not only out-compete native plants, but to significantly alter the fire frequency and intensity of fires. Removing these species from the roadside not only reduces the dispersal of such species, it also acts to reduce the ladder fuels that these invasive species create, and reduces the likelihood of a catastrophic fire from starting along a treated roadside. Removal of these species also helps to maintain the integrity of all native plant communities on the Island, and to protect them from habitat replacement to a non-native shrubland and/or annual grassland.

Effect on Wildlife Habitat and Species: The removal of invasive plant species from Catalina Island will help ensure the survival of multiple native plants, animals, and biological communities, as well as further aid in the current recovery efforts taking place for the federally endangered Catalina Island fox. The Island is home to 422 native plants and 56 wildlife species, of which over 60 species are endemic, and home to nearly 100 federal trust species. The conservation of species and their habitats is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-wide commitment. It is also a commitment among the various partners whose efforts we depend on for the benefit of our fish and wildlife resources.

Short-term and Long-term Economic Benefits for the Local Community: Initially, implementation of this project will create and secure jobs for four people and support over 60 conservation corps members for up to 24 months. The project and associated commerce will be contributing to the local economy while conserving a beautiful and diverse island ecosystem unique only to this Island – part of California’s historic natural treasures. The project will also benefit the community by helping to protect and restore sustainable populations of native plants and wildlife; improve water quality and watershed health; reduce the likelihood of catastrophic fires; protect and stabilize property loss due to erosion; and enhance aesthetics and recreation benefits. This project’s success can potentially serve as a catalyst for future Island conservation funds, job creation and volunteer efforts; provide opportunities for additional outreach and education programs; strengthen community involvement; and create an overall sense of pride spreading throughout the Avalon community reaching Catalina Island’s 1 million tourists who visit every year.

Project Status: The contract was awarded to the Catalina Island Conservancy of Catalina Island, California on August 15, 2009, in the amount of $211,000.00. The Catalina Island Conservancy also received approximately $250,000 from NRCS EQIP funds to follow up on this project after the ARRA funds are spent. The project is expected to be completed by May 2011.

Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad office is located in the city of Carlsbad – a biodiversity hotspot within southern California. It is our mission to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. Within our area of responsibility, we have more than 18 million people and 102 federally threatened or endangered species, 28 Congressional Districts, and 29 Indian tribes.

Our field office serves all, or portions of, the following geographical areas: Los Angeles, Orange, San Diego, Imperial, Riverside, and San Bernardino counties, including Santa Catalina Island and San Clemente Island.

November 2011 Project Update: In August 2009, the Catalina Island Invasive Species Roadside Treatment Project was launched to remove or reduce invasive plant species along every road and trail across the entire island. By May 2011, this project was completed and approximately 10,000 acres have been surveyed and treated, including 233 miles of roads and trails. As a result, a healthier and more sustainable native plant habitat exists that provides shelter and food to the Island’s endemic and native animals. Additionally, residents, staff, and visitors have an increased awareness, better understanding and appreciation for the Island’s unique natural resources and the delicate balancing act required to keep the lands healthy.

Habitat restoration is one of the Fish and Wildlife Service’s priority needs and the invasive plant treatment project is an ideal example of what the Service is all about; it’s what we do. Our mission is working with others to conserve and protect our Federal Trust Resources, which include plants, fish, migratory birds, threatened and endangered species and their habitats. How we accomplish our mission is by seeking out and building successful, collaborative partnerships, and working together towards common goals.

With the help of ARRA funding, this project enabled the Service, Catalina Island Conservancy and participating organizations to make a difference and achieve extraordinary results.


04-29-10_carlsbad-fwo_r8fd_1Many Catalina hillsides are healthy and have not been crowded out by invasive species.  04-29-10_carlsbad-fwo_r8fd_2Shane Barrow, Invasive Plant Program Manager (background). Amelia Swenson and Leah MacCarter (foreground) from the American Conservation Experience Program. 
04-29-10_carlsbad-fwo_r8fd_3ACE volunteer manually removes fennel.  04-29-10_carlsbad-fwo_r8fd_4Shane Barrow, Invasive Plant Program Manager for the Catalina Island Conservancy holds a fennel bush. 

Photos by Stephanie Weagley, USFWS.

To Learn More:

For more information, visit the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office website, or contact: 

Stephanie Weagley
Public Affairs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
6010 Hidden Valley Rd., Suite 101
Carlsbad, California 92011
Phone: (760) 431-9440, Ext. 210
Fax: (760) 431-9618

Shane Barrow
Invasive Plant Program Manager
Catalina Island Conservancy
Phone: (310) 510-2250 (ext. 229)

Feature Story: Collaboration is the Key to Success: The Catalina Island Invasive Plant Species Roadside Treatment Project

Originally posted 04/29/2010
Updated 05/06/2010
Updated 08/12/2010
Page Completed 11/23/2011

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Last Updated: February 02, 2012
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