The fate of Santa Cruz Island’s indigenous wildlife now officially rests on a plan of hunting and burning.
The Channel Islands National Park published on Tuesday its Record of Decision for the Primary Restoration Plan Final Environmental Impact Report, meaning the planning and public input processes of the park’s plan to eliminate the presence of non-native species from the island is one step closer to fruition.
Yvonne Menard, public information officer for the Channel Islands Park Service, said the adoption of the plan to exterminate such interlopers will help return Santa Cruz Island to its natural state.
“Our mission is to restore the island,” Menard said. “It’s the final phase of review for the process, and [the Park Service] will be adopting alternative four of the project’s EIR, which means the removal of alien pigs and fennel from the island.”
Since the project’s goal is the restoration of the island’s natural resources, Menard said the elimination of non-native pigs through zone-by-zone hunting is necessary. The pigs, introduced to the island by humans as domestic animals but long since turned feral, infringe on the ecological niche presently occupied by the island’s native foxes.
“If we can divide the island into zones and clear the pigs from one zone after the next, we can stop the destruction of the island’s natural resources,” Menard said, referring to plant species the pigs consume.
Menard said the elimination of the pigs would also make the island less attractive to the golden eagles that threaten to throw its ecosystem out of balance. The result will be a more hospitable environment for the native bald eagle.
“Without the pigs, the golden eagles will no longer have a food source. This would open the habitat up for [native] bald eagles to be reintroduced to the island,” she said.
The other threatening species targeted in the restoration process is the fennel plant. Menard called the fennel an invasive, dominant species. However, its propensity for growing in tall thickets makes controlled burning an effective way to kill it.
The burning of the fennel is scheduled to begin in 2004.
To see the published Record of Decision, visit the Channel Island Park Service’s website at http://www.nps.gov/chis/restoringsci/island.html.
– Drew Mackie