Anderson Design Group Interviews Channel Islands Restoration!

Anderson Design Group Interviews Channel Islands Restoration!

We love our National Parks! As artists, we love to explore them, photograph and document them, and share our enthusiasm with other park lovers by creating original, high quality poster art.

We also like to support the dozens of conservation groups that protect the parks. One fun way to show our support is by interviewing officials from conservation groups so we can get the word out about their efforts and share interesting behind-the-scenes information about the good work they are doing to preserve our National Parks.

In this week's interview, we sat down with Morey Spellman from Channel Islands Restoration, a group dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of Channel Islands National Park.

Morey & Ren Talk About the Importance of the Preserving the Channel Islands

Ren: What is Channel Islands Restoration?

Morey: We’re a 501(c)(3) non-profit contractor that works to restore habitat on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland through invasive plant management, native plant propagation and native plant installation. We promote environmental education on the Central Coast through lectures, service trips, and habitat restoration volunteer opportunities. We also conduct research to identify further habitat restoration efforts.

Ren: Fascinating! Tell me more about the regions your group does restoration work in.

Morey: We do habitat restoration throughout Southern California and the Central Coast, from Los Angeles County to Santa Barbara County, to the Channel Islands and two National Forests in-between. In the last 20 years, our conservation work has taken us to over one hundred job sites and we’re constantly looking for new opportunities to conserve local habitat and evaluate how much progress we’ve made on projects that require long-term attention and restoration.

Ren: That's incredible. Great work. How did you guys get your start?

Morey: Thanks! You can trace the impetus of our organization back to a trip on Santa Cruz Island in the 1990s that our Executive Director Ken Owen took, spurring him to develop a heightened interest in botany, ecology, and how working in such a beautiful location could become a regular occurrence.

After his job dissolved in the dot.com crash, the idea for Channel Islands Restoration was born. With increasing community interest and attention to restoration on the islands and on the mainland, Ken, co-founder Duke McPherson, and other restoration activists formed Channel Islands Restoration as a non-profit organization dedicated to community involvement, education, and collaboration of restoration efforts on the islands and on the mainland. With Duke and Ken’s years of experience, CIR was perfectly poised to grow and gain a reputation as a reliable and energetic provider of environmental restoration and educational services.

Ren: What a history! And what types of projects does your group work on each year?

Morey: Our projects are spread across three counties. Our team will work in the Angeles National Forest to eliminate invasive weeds one week and then plant native flora in our home base of Santa Barbara the next week. Seasons affect our schedule as we tend to lighten the workload in summer to compensate for the heat and dry conditions in the field. Projects are diverse in scope and scale, but they all contain a common thread of habitat restoration, which is essentially returning the functional aspects of a given ecosystem to a semblance of its pre-disturbed state thereby increasing the number and variety of organisms that live there. Restoration is helpful in reversing long-term trends in habitat loss and in re-establishing threatened and endangered species.

Ren: Sounds like a comprehensive approach. What are some of the plants and animals in the Channel Islands that your group is trying to protect?

Morey: There are certainly a few. While the Channel Islands support fewer endemic species than the mainland due to their isolation, this scarcity is what makes the protection of those species even more important. Our organization has worked to conserve habitat that supports animals such as the Channel Island Fox, Island Night Lizard, the Island Scrub Jay, Channel Islands Spotted Skunk, and the Channel Islands Deer Mouse. We also work to support native fauna such as the Santa Cruz Island manzanita, Coastal lotus, Santa Cruz Island oak, Santa Cruz Island buckwheat, and many others.

Ren: That's wonderful. I bet the flora and fauna appreciates you! And how do you enlist the help of the community in these projects?

Morey: Although we employ hard-working field technicians who are primarily responsible for work related to our conservation projects, we are often in need of volunteers to help support our mission on projects that could benefit from increased participation. We work hard to make our volunteer work meaningful by providing access to areas that aren’t normally accessible to the public, offering specialized knowledge about the local environment, bringing together members of the naturalist community for special occasions, or other curated opportunities. We're really appreciative of our volunteers, because our work is simply not possible without dedicated volunteers. We’ve been lucky to have worked with close to 10,000 individuals over the years on various conservation projects that our organization has undertaken.

Ren: That's amazing. Something about the beloved community coming together to protect the natural world is just so special. And is there an educational side to Channel Islands Restoration as well?

Morey: Definitely! The three pillars of our organization are restoration, research, and education. Over the years, CIR has worked with numerous school groups on the islands and mainland, we’ve used CIR projects as the basis for classes, and we've built-up animal and plant artifacts for CIR tabling and events. Most recently, we’ve had several educational opportunities become available for volunteers, both virtually and in-person. We’re looking for restoration volunteers willing to take National Park Service training to become volunteer NPS work leaders, the next time training is offered. We’re also hoping to add virtual and in-person education and outreach to volunteers and prospective docents for the San Marcos Foothills. Anyone who's interested can contact us at volunteer@cirweb.org.

Ren: Fantastic. And how did you guys celebrate Earth Day this year?

Morey: Oh certainly! We definitely celebrated. We believe that every day is #EarthDay, and this year we decided to extend our Earth Day festivities for the entire month of April by hosting several environmental education tours at the San Marcos Foothills West Mesa in Santa Barbara County. This property is a 101-acre nature preserve that, along with an umbrella coalition and tremendous community support, our organization recently saved from development in June 2021. For the events, docents lead attendants on easy walks of the native grassland open space with each docent adding a topical perspective to their tour that gave insight into the Preserve’s geology, ecology, or history. And on Earth Day, our team had the privilege of leading a local corporate group to volunteer in the installation of a wildlife watering station that will serve as a conduit for small critters and native fauna who need water.

Ren: Sounds like a party! And what are some of the short-term and long-term goals for Channel Islands Restoration?

Morey: We just hit our 20th anniversary! It's certainly made us reflect on all the meaningful work we’ve accomplished and it's led us to look forward to what the future might hold. Twenty years in, we’ve entered a new era in the short-term, based around strengthening our internal operations, creating new docent programs, and expanding our research capacities. We want to continue building on our relationships with the clients, agencies, and partners that we work with regularly and go back to maximizing the restoration we do on the Channel Islands that was briefly halted due to the pandemic and the islands being inaccessible for regular conservation work.

Ren: Sounds like a plan! What do you think about our Channel Islands poster art? Any designs we should add to our series?

Morey: We have tremendous respect for any artist who can translate thoughts into a visual medium, and we have even more appreciation when those thoughts are relevant to our mission! Anderson Design Group's posters are stunning, and I think they embody a little bit of that element of mystique that the Channel Islands hold for so many people who visit or even hear about them second-hand. We would love to see designs that touch on some of the less-frequented islands and some of their defining features such as the Torrey Pines or Lobo Canyon on Santa Rosa Island.

Ren: Great idea! And what else do you want people to know about Channel Islands Restoration?

Morey: As the old Chinese proverb goes, "The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now." At Channel Islands Restoration, we take that literally! Now is the best time to get involved with conserving the environment. With climate change becoming an ever-growing concern for the Channel Islands and the populations of native fauna and flora that make the islands’ home, we encourage those interested to research ways to make an environmental difference.

Ren: Awesome. What a mission! Thank you so much for sitting down with us today.

Morey: Thanks for having me!

Friends of the National Parks, Groups Worth Supporting

Channel Islands Restoration can be found at www.cirweb.org. They can be reached via email or phone at their Contact Page, and their Volunteer page is available for those who'd like to get more information about volunteer activities.

Anderson Design Group is committed to preserving the National Parks and natural wonders of America that we know and love. If you represent a Friend Group, Conservancy, Preservation Association, or other group that is committed to maintaining the American National Parks, contact us today to set up an interview! We'll get the word out about your group and your mission.

Until next time, let's enjoy the parks, and let's all do our part to ensure these beautiful creations will be here for future generations to enjoy.

-Ren Brabenec
Anderson Design Group Staff Writer


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