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Wednesday, December 12 , 2018, 12:59 am | Fair 45º


Goleta Council Approves 2018 Project List as Part of Ellwood Mesa Habitat Management Plan

Implementation phase for this year includes replacing 28 eucalyptus trees in an area with dead trees and reduced butterfly counts; plan goes to Coastal Commission for approval

eucalyptus grove Click to view larger
Goleta moves forward on its Ellwood Mesa Sperling Preserve Open Space Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan.  (Brooke Holland/ Noozhawk photo)

The Goleta City Council is moving forward with its habitat management plan for the Ellwood Mesa, and dove into the details at Tuesday's meeting. 

Dead and dying trees have prompted the city to close wooded trails in the area and cut down trees, and staff presented a draft of the Ellwood Mesa Sperling Preserve Open Space Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan and this year’s implementation phase.

Council members had the opportunity to provide feedback or possible alternatives, and, in general, were supporting the city staff report.

The council unanimously approved authorizing staff to submit the implementation plan for 2018 and apply for approvals from the California Coastal Commission.

Ellwood Mesa is 230 acres on the western end of the city, from Hollister Avenue south to the ocean bluffs and from UC Santa Barbara west to the Sandpiper Golf Course. The proposed plan centers around 78 acres of aging eucalyptus grove and windrow habitat.

Last summer, Goleta closed many of the forested trails for urgent tree removal, and they are still closed as community members have pushed back on city plans to cut additional trees.

The city's draft habitat management plan outlines how to improve and manage the area’s eucalyptus forest to benefit the habitat for migrating monarch butterflies, the public’s use and other wildlife. 

“The purpose is to manage the Ellwood habitat that supports monarchs,” Advance Planning Manager Anne Wells said of the plan. 

To adopt the plan, the city will conduct environmental review, seek public input and get approval from the Planning Commission and City Council. 

The habitat management plan is a long-term conservation strategy, Wells said. 

“We are not just looking at today,” she said. “We are looking at tomorrow and thereafter.”

Wells said the estimated cost for 10 years of implementing the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan is $2.46 million, and 37,000 hours in staffing. Funding comes from multiple sources like grants, donations, mitigation fees and the city’s General Fund. 

The state budget this year included $3.9 million to help restore the Ellwood Mesa butterfly preserve, including money for the coastal permits, habitat management plan and benches, and public access signage.

Implementation projects planned this year include replacing 28 eucalyptus trees in the Ellwood north overwintering site, where there were susbstantial tree die-offs and reduced butterfly counts, according to the city. 

The council was generally in support of replacing trail closure signage with cautionary signs, and some were supportive of planting more trees.  

“It’s a great location, (and) close to the parking lot,” Councilman Roger Aceves said.

“We would want to be more careful about suggesting to add more trees because it’s a great idea, (and) I would hope that we do the science so that it’s sustainable,” Councilman Michael Bennett said. “I want to see the science that suggests it's an appropriate outcome.”

The 2018 implementation plan includes an irrigation project for the 28 new trees, and Councilman Stuart Kasdin said he wants to see the state grant funding used on that. 

“I don’t want to see the $3.9 million spent on monitoring and consultant fees,” Kasdin said. “I want to see that irrigation plan.”

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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