State Coastal Conservancy grant of $3.9 million is funding butterfly Habitat Management Plan.

State Coastal Conservancy grant of $3.9 million is funding butterfly Habitat Management Plan. (Courtesy photo)

The city of Goleta has more time to complete improvements to the Ellwood Mesa Monarch Butterfly Grove. Gov. Gavin Newsom on Sept. 9 signed Senate Bill 115 extending the use of a $3.9 million grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy until June 30, 2023.

The Coastal Conservancy grant was awarded to the city in 2019 for design and implementation of the Monarch Butterfly Management Plan at the Ellwood Mesa/Sperling Preserve Open Space, a 137-acre open space area owned by the city of Goleta on the eastern edge of the Gaviota Coast.

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson and state Assemblymember Monique Limón were both instrumental in getting the funds included in the state’s budget bill and extended to June 30, 2023.

Offering her appreciation for their support, Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said: “On behalf of Goleta, I want to express our deepest thanks to Sen. Jackson and Assemblymember Limón for their stellar efforts to secure nearly $4 million to fund and implement our Habitat Management Plan.

“Thanks to them, generations of Goletans will enjoy safe and easy access to Ellwood Mesa, the butterfly preserve, and our beaches and ocean.”

Ellwood Mesa is one of the most important sites for overwintering monarch butterflies in California; in fact, a portion of the site is designated by The Xerces Society as “the premier Monarch site in southern California.”

The butterflies arrive at Ellwood Mesa in mid-September and, as winter approaches, cluster into aggregation roosts, often called overwintering or wintering colonies.

The project is needed because the monarch population is experiencing a sudden and significant decline in western North America. Monarch overwintering populations throughout California have been in steep decline for the past several years.

At Ellwood Mesa, monitoring indicated only 271 butterflies were present at the height of the migration this past winter, down drastically from a recent high of 47,500 butterflies in the grove during 2011-12. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is evaluating whether the species warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act.

The grant funding specifically supports enhancement of a 75-acre portion of the Ellwood Mesa Open Space used by monarch butterflies. The project consists of implementing the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan, which identifies how the city will preserve, restore and enhance monarch butterfly overwintering habitat.

The project includes enhancement of other wildlife habitat, education and outreach, trail improvements, signage, monitoring, research, and implementation of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.