Tons of Trash Cleared Off Santa Cruz Island

VENTURA, California, May 5, 2008 (ENS) – This week, a major cleanup project is being completed on Santa Cruz Island, the largest of the eight Channel Islands, which lies 25 miles off the coast of California’s Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.

Tons of non-recyclable waste from years of ranching operations had accumulated at a dump site on the island. The trash heap held scrap metal, old tires, cans of old lead-based paint, derelict vehicles and equipment, and obsolete appliances.

Last October, the California Integrated Waste Management Board approved spending $200,000 to clear away these tons of trash and debris. Now, the trash is being removed and placed onto barges where it will be sent for proper disposal.

“Decades of trash and waste accumulation have marred the natural beauty of the island,” said Board Chair Margo Reid Brown. “This vital clean-up effort helps restore Santa Cruz Island to its natural state, allowing it to be enjoyed for generations to come.”

At 96 square miles and 62,000 acres, Santa Cruz Island is jointly owned and managed by The Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service.

“Our efforts to restore Santa Cruz Island have been a success. The island fox is flourishing, bald eagles are now nesting on the island again, and native habitats are recovering,” said Dr. Lotus Vermeer, director of the Santa Cruz Island Preserve for The Nature Conservancy.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger commended the historic restoration of this fragile natural habitat and praised the partnership among state, federal and nonprofit agencies behind the effort.

“The preservation effort on Santa Cruz Island is another victory in our efforts to preserve our Golden State and to leave future generations a better place to live, work and enjoy,” the governor said.

“I applaud our Waste Board, the Nature Conservancy and the National Park Service for demonstrating once again that through the immense power of partnerships, we can do the extraordinary for our environment and natural resources here in California.”

The island supports 60 species found only in the Channel Islands. Twelve of those species – four animals and eight plants – exist only on Santa Cruz Island and nowhere else on Earth.

The small Santa Cruz Island fox, the harvest mouse and the Santa Cruz Island deer mouse are all unique to Santa Cruz Island. A fourth mammal, the spotted skunk, is found only on the Channel Islands.

Santa Cruz Island was on the brink of biological destruction when The Nature Conservancy acquired an interest in the island in 1978. Feral pigs and tens of thousands of feral sheep, remnants of early ranches, had roamed the island for more than a century, stripping the hills of vegetation. During the 1980s, the Conservancy eliminated the sheep, allowing native plants to recover.

The Conservancy, which owns 76 percent of the island, and the National Park Service, which owns the rest, are working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and other partners on an intensive, science-based restoration program for the entire island.

A pair of Santa Cruz Island foxes
(Photo courtesy National
Park Service)

Today’s major focus is saving the island fox, which is considered critically endangered.

Because Island foxes are geographically isolated they have no immunity to parasites and diseases brought from the mainland and they are especially vulnerable to those domestic dogs may carry.

Golden eagle predation and human activities reduced fox numbers on several of the Channel Islands in the 1990s. Four Island fox subspecies were federally protected as an endangered species in 2004.

The restoration program has five components – breeding island foxes in captivity and monitoring the wild population, relocating golden eagles to the mainland, re-establishing bald eagles on the island, which is expected to discourage golden eagles from returning, eradicating feral pigs, and controlling invasive weeds.

Santa Cruz Island is designated as a State of California Area of Special Biological Significance. It is part of the Channel Islands National Park and is included in the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary.

The island is also as part of the United Nations’ Man and the Biosphere Program, designated as the Channel Islands Biosphere Reserve.

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