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Monday, March 25 , 2019, 9:53 am | Fair 56º

 
 
 
 

$3.9 million Will Help Give Wing to Ellwood Mesa Butterfly Grove Restoration

Monarch butterflies. Click to view larger
Monarch butterflies.

The state budget, signed this week by Gov. Jerry Brown, includes $3.9 million in funding for the Ellwood Monarch Butterfly Grove, the city of Goleta has announced.

The funds will help Goleta address the management and restoration actions related to the butterfly habitat at Ellwood Mesa, which has suffered because of the drought.
 
“The city of Goleta is grateful for the leadership of [state] Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson in securing funding for this important project," said Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte.

"The Ellwood Monarch Butterfly Grove is a precious resource within our city limits that we must carefully and thoughtfully work to protect in perpetuity,” she said.

“These funds will help the city engage in a robust outreach process during the development of the management plan and also provide assistance in the restoration process,” the mayor said.

“The people of Goleta have had a longstanding commitment to preserving this critical habitat for the extraordinary monarch butterfly," said Jackson.

"I have been privileged to participate in that process and I am committed to ensuring the continued enjoyment of this area, both for the butterflies and those who appreciate them,” she said.

The funds will be available as grants for this project through the State Coastal Conservancy.

In summer 2017, Goleta received the results of a tree health assessment performed as part of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan preparation process.

The results revealed the presence of 1,000-plus standing dead and dying eucalyptus trees (more than 20 percent of the population of the grove) on Ellwood Mesa. Many of the trees were severely impacted by the drought, which increased their vulnerability to the invasion of pests.

The City Council discussed options to address habitat impacts and public safety risks resulting from the presence of dead and dying trees during two public meetings in September 2017.

After a great deal of public comment and City Council deliberation, the council approved a plan to remove 28 trees along key public trails.

The City Council asked staff to expedite the development of a management plan and permitting process, which typically takes 3-5 years, with permitting and environmental review.

The draft plan will include management and restoration actions related to changing conditions on Ellwood Mesa. Specifically, continuing severe drought and the extensive presence of dead trees create unique resource management challenges the plan will need to address.

Ellwood Mesa is also home to other vulnerable plant and animal species, and is a key nesting site for several types of raptors. The vast canopy and understory provide critical habitat for these species, while the trees counter act the effect of greenhouse gas emissions.

The City Council is committed to the effort of restoring the Ellwood Mesa and maintaining it for the enjoyment of the community. The city requested an allocation of $4 million for the Ellwood Mesa Habitat Management Plan and restoration for the nearly 74 acres it covers.

Ellwood Main is designated by The Xerces Society as “the premier Monarch site in southern California” (https://xerces.org/where-to-see-monarchs-in-california/#santabarbara).

The Ellwood monarch habitat is one of the three best known monarch butterfly aggregation sites in California along with Pismo Beach and Pacific Grove. Ellwood Main once held the highest number of overwintering butterflies in California.
 
For many years prior to the drought, thousands of visitors a year came to Ellwood Main to view tens-of-thousands of butterflies.

The countywide survey report of monarch butterfly aggregation sites, conducted in 1998-99, stated: “Year after year, Ellwood Main is the most visited site in Santa Barbara County.”

It remained a popular a site until the grove was closed in 2017 due to the many dead and dying trees along trails and butterfly viewing areas.

Multiple aggregation sites are essential to the survival of the monarch butterfly overwintering phenomena, especially as development, climate change, and drought affect tree health and eliminate aggregation locations.

Monarch butterfly numbers have dropped dramatically in recent years, prompting consideration for listing the species as threatened or endangered. Only by protecting their habitat will they survive.
 
— Valerie Kushnerov for city of Goleta.

 

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