The Conservation and Science Committees meet jointly on the first Wednesday of each month at 6:30 PM in the MacVeagh House at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History.
The Conservation Committee is one of Santa Barbara Audubon Society’s most active standing committees. The Conservation Committee provides the focus for SBAS’s commitment to protecting birds and bird habitat through projects, strategies, and advocacy which advance the conservation and restoration of ecosystems in support biological diversity.
The Conservation Committee deals with a myriad of issues. A sampling of the projects in which the Committee has been involved over the past several months include the following:
Project Prioritization Process
Purpose: To provide a tool to the Conservation Committee for the assessment and prioritization of potential committee projects/issues. This process is designed to inform and provide guidance to the committee.
Strauss Wind Energy Project (SWEP)
Issue: Proposed wind turbine generation installation in Lompoc. The SWEP intends to develop, construct, and operate a utility-scale wind energy project on approximately 2,950 acres of rural, agriculturally zoned land on coastal ridges southwest of Lompoc.
Status: County is in the final stages of preparing the Draft Supplement to the Lompoc Wind Energy Project’s Environmental Impact Report (DSEIR) for the Strauss Wind Energy Project. It is anticipated that the DSEIR will be released in mid-April. To date, SBAS has submitted two letters outlining our concerns to the County. It is expected that SBAS will need to engage with legal counsel to formulate a strong, effective, and persuasive response to the DSEIR.
SBAS Fire Management and Birds Review Group
Issue: An SBAS working group was convened in late fall and charged with developing a white paper on the effects of fire management strategies and practices on birds, wildlife, and their habitats, with a focus on Santa Barbara County. It is anticipated that recommendations will be offered that will guide SBAS in formulating positions on specific fire management issues. Strategies under investigation include prescribed burning, fire breaks and roads, mechanical clearances, mastication, hardening of homes/structures, agricultural buffers, herbivory, and zoning, insurance, and land buy-back schemes.
Status: Research support is being provided to this effort through the award of an SBAS grant. The review group continues its work. The aim is to have a draft of the white paper completed by May.
Goleta Beach Rookery Encroachment by SoCalGas
Issue: In late March, a posting to the sbcobirding email group reported the sighting of a new drill rig adjacent to the Goleta Beach rookery. Upon further investigation, it was determined that this new drilling apparatus is a SoCalGas workover rig recently moved onto site at its Goleta storage field. SBAS communication to the SoCalGas, the California Coastal Commission, the state Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the County have articulated our concerns regarding the proximity of the rig to the longstanding and active rookery, potentially in violation of the compliance requirements set forth in the Final EIR for the project.
Status: A stop work order has been issued by the California Coastal Commission. SBAS is awaiting further communication from the entities involved.
Ellwood Mesa/Sperling Preserve Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan
Issue: In the face of significant losses of eucalyptus, precipitous declines in the monarch butterfly population, and mounting public concern, the City of Goleta engaged in a public process to develop the Ellwood Mesa/Sperling Preserve Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan (MBHMP). SBAS provided formal comment on the draft MBHMP in August 2018 and followed with additional comments in February 2019 in response to the Initial Study – Mitigated Negative Declaration for the MBHMP.
Status: The MBHMP was officially adopted by City Council in March 2019.
Lighting Issues: UCSB North Bluff Overlooking Goleta Slough
Issue: It has been identified that light spillage from overhead light fixtures along Mesa Road is impacting the Goleta Slough. Such spillage is not compliant with the requirements set forth in the campus’ approved Long Range Development Plan (LRDP).
Status: SBAS sent a letter to UCSB requesting that action be taken to address the light spillage issue. SBAS recently received a letter from UCSB stating the following actions that will be undertaken: (1) within the month, the fixtures in the streetlights will be repositioned to eliminate or reduce light spill into the Slough; and (2) UCSB will schedule replacement of the nine fixtures along the eastern side of Mesa Road with the campus standard as delineated in the LRDP within the plan’s 10 year timeframe (i.e., by 2025).
Rancho La Patera Proposed Improvements
Issue: Improvements have, at various times, been proposed for the area and include a fire line to better protect Stow House and outbuildings; repaving of the existing parking lot; upgrading of the existing port-a-john to a prefabricated restroom; and accessible sidewalks. SBAS has regularly communicated with the City of Goleta, articulating issues of concern and providing recommendations related to these proposed projects as well as advocating for a current management plan for Lake Los Carneros to more effectively guide infrastructure improvements.
Status: Following additional communication and a face-to-face meeting, these projects have been downscoped and SBAS’s concerns and issues have been taken into consideration. The leads for this issue remain vigilant in monitoring the proposed improvements as they proceed from concept to implementation. Continued advocacy has been taking place regarding an updated management plan.
- IElihu Gevirtz, Channel Island Restoration, Sheep Grazing within San Marcos Foothills Preserve (March 2019)
- Jeff Kuyper, Executive Director, and Bryant Baker, Conservation Director, Los Padres ForestWatch, Natural Chaparral Wildfires, Human Influences, and Mitigation Strategies (November 2018)
- Gregg Hart (October 2018)
- Cape Ivy Biocontrol Project: Lake Los Carneros
- Conservation Committee’s Mitigation Priorities
- Pest/Weed Control (herbicides and rodenticides)