Despite Insufficient Funding, Channel Islands National Park Biodiversity Is Revived

Date:   April 8, 2008
Contact:   Lindsay Bartsh, Media Relations Manager, National Parks Conservation Association, 415-989-9921 x22

Despite Insufficient Funding, Channel Islands National Park Biodiversity Is Revived

New Report Credits the National Park Service for Restoration Efforts and Recommends More Funding for Park Positions

Los Angeles, Calif.– Channel Islands National Park, commonly referred to as the “North American Galapagos,” has suffered a lack of funding and staffing over the years, but key species are starting to thrive, the nation’s leading voice for the national parks, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) announced.

In a report released today, NPCA credits the National Park Service with restoring the natural plant and animal life indigenous to the islands despite serious budgetary restraints. The report recommends that more money be allocated to the park to continue and enhance those efforts.

“Channel Islands' unique and rich biodiversity makes it a natural jewel that must be protected,” said Ron Sundergill, NPCA's Pacific regional director. “Even with severe shortfalls in funding, the Park Service has been able to restore natural habitat and reintroduce native species to the islands.”

NPCA's Center for State of the Parks report lists several success stories on the islands, including the recovery of the island fox and the bald eagle, ecosystems in various stages of recovery and the removal of most of the non-native animals that threatened to overrun native species. Still, the natural resources of the park rated poor in the study, primarily because habitats have been negatively impacted from past land use. However, because the islands are an isolated ecosystem, resources are expected to improve over time with continued funding. Cultural resource conditions at the park rated “fair.”

Since the park's creation in 1980, the study said, the Park Service has done much to restore and protect resources, but challenges remain:

-Archaeological research and protection must be ensured. The park has identified over 2,000 archeological sites on the islands and in the surrounding waters.  These resources include ancient occupation sites dating back some 13,000 years and the oldest human remains yet discovered in North America. Additional archeological survey is needed along with actions to recover data from eroding sites. Despite this, current funding allows for just one archaeologist six months out of the year to manage these significant archeological resources.

-Herds of non-native mule deer and elk, kept on Santa Rosa Island for a private hunting operation under a special use permit, hinder restoration efforts and restrict public access to the park lands. The animals are slated for removal by a court approved settlement agreement by the end of 2011; however, the owners of the animals have stated their desire to keep them on the island indefinitely.

-Invasive species management projects are grossly under-funded and understaffed, with just one park staff member and the aid of a second ecologist performing much of the control work. Limited control efforts mean that the spread of invasive plant species outpaces control projects, and non-native species overtake native vegetation.

-The park's 2004 business plan reports a staffing shortfall of 24 full-time-equivalent employees. NPCA recommends that federal funding be restored or enhanced to help the National Park Service fill critical unfilled or unfunded positions, including a database manager, a full-time Geographic Information Systems specialist, biological technicians, a compliance/planning specialist, a full-time archaeologist, a preservation specialist and curatorial staff.

-The park has deferred maintenance costs of $4 million to rehabilitate historically significant structures, including ranch buildings on Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz islands, Anacapa Island’s historic light station, and landscape features such as corrals, fences and rock retaining walls.

The report also indicates that further restoration of the coastal waters is needed to restore the abundance of marine life lost from fishing and harvesting, but noted that progress has been made with the recent addition of nearly 150 square nautical miles of protected waters around the islands.  Regulations by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration went into effect in August 2007, doubling the existing no-fishing zones around the islands. Data from park monitoring sites were instrumental in the establishment of these marine reserves because they documented the decline of the marine ecosystem.

“The isolation of Channel Islands National Park has helped to preserve its rare biodiversity, but that alone has not been enough,” continued Sundergill. “The National Park Service needs more funding to continue and enhance the restoration work it started.”

Channel Islands National Park lies about 60 miles off the coast of Los Angeles and can only be visited by boat or plane. Half of the 125,000-acre park is a marine environment, with giant kelp forests, rocky reefs, shipwrecks and deep-sea canyons ideal for scuba diving. On land, a rare and diverse population of wildlife species abounds.

NPCA launched the landmark Center for State of the Parks program in 2000 to assess the health of national parks across the country.  To view a copy of the full report, please click here.  

Since 1919, the nonpartisan, nonprofit NPCA has been the leading voice of the American people in protecting and enhancing our National Park System. NPCA, its 340,000 members, and partners work together to protect the park system and preserve our nation’s natural, historical, and cultural heritage for generations to come.



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