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Local Partnership Improves Stream Habitats in Ojai

By on September 4, 2013 in News, Press

Usually, the sound of a chain saw coming from a local creek is cause for concern. Recently, however, this sound has been associated with habitat improvements for fish and wildlife. A partnership between the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (OVLC), the California Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Concerned Resource and Environmental Workers (CREW) has just completed a project to remove non-native Mexican palm trees along a ¾ mile reach of the Fox Canyon Barranca in Ojai.  This phase of tree removal is part of a larger effort to improve urban stream habitats that was begun by CREW, BioResource Consultants (BRC), and the Ojai Valley Green Coalition at Libbey Park.

Mexican fan palms are not native to our local watershed and they degrade local habitats in a variety of ways. First, the palms are capable of displacing the native vegetation upon which local wildlife rely. Over time, they can form dense stands that exclude native vegetation. In addition, the fronds falling from the trees, or remaining on the trees attract high numbers of rodents. Studies have shown that the increased rodent population increases predation of native bird nests. Perhaps most notable, the piles of dead fronds on the ground, and traveling up the trees, are a severe fire hazard. The fronds on the trees act as ladders for fire to travel from the ground into the tree canopy. This puts the entire stream habitat, as well as nearby homes, at risk. Removal of these trees reduces fire hazards and directly improves habitat for native wildlife.

The project was funded through a Proposition 84 grant to the CCC. The grant funded 5 weeks of crew time to remove palms and accumulated fronds on private properties. The OVLC served as the project sponsor for the CCC, assisted with access to properties, and provided funds for the disposal of waste material. CREW assisted with project planning and landowner permissions, and has applied for grants to continue invasive plant removal and ecological restoration of the stream. BRC helped to secure project permits and ensure environmental protection during implementation.

“This project is the first phase of a larger on-going restoration project that has been in planning for the past four years.  The CCC was very efficient and accomplished a great deal with the funds allocated.

We are looking forward to continuing the restoration effort both for this project, as well as downstream.”  -Brian Holly, BRC, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy Board Member

“The project was a great opportunity for multiple organizations to share talent and resources in reaching a common goal. Partnerships like these make our community stronger.” – Brian Stark, Ojai Valley Land Conservancy

“The CCC removed over 200 palm trees during project work.  It was a good lesson in situational awareness for the CCC fire crews as they were instructed to remove large palm trees while taking extra care to not impact the creek or surrounding vegetation.” – Jill Taylor, California Conservation Corps

“CREW participants are eager to start more work on the Barranca and take pride in the impressive results of prior work at Libbey Park.”  – Caitlin Pohle, CREW

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