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Natural Perspectives: Conservation Corps descends on Bolsa Chica

July 27, 2011|By Vic Leipzig and Lou Murray
  • Orange County Corps Members collect mussels from the public docks to feed sea stars at the Bolsa Chica Conservancy's marine aquarium and touch tank.
Orange County Corps Members collect mussels from the… (Lou Murray, HB Independent )

The Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve has had a stroke of good luck. A crew from the Orange County Conservation Corps has come to work with the Bolsa Chica Conservancy and the California Department of Fish and Game to improve habitat for wildlife. They started three weeks ago. Some of the main beneficiaries of their work will be the endangered California least terns and threatened Western snowy plovers.

Gil Morales, a new supervisor with the corps, is in charge of this crew of 12 corps members. They will be stationed at Bolsa Chica through August. At that time, Grace Adams, executive director of the conservancy, and Josh Volp, director of operations at the Conservation Corps, expect to obtain Proposition 84 funds that will keep the crew at Bolsa Chica for another three to four months.

Vic and I are giddy with excitement about how much restoration work the crew will be able to accomplish in that time. Well, I am, anyway. I don't think I could ever describe staid Vic as giddy. Kelly O'Reilly, a DFG biologist, is also excited. Her staff of Gary Keller and Peter Knapp will be working with corps crew members to help them identify which plants to remove. They scout out work areas where birds are not currently nesting.

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The first couple of weeks the corps crew was at Bolsa Chica, it did some restoration work around the conservancy's interpretive center at Warner Avenue and Pacific Coast Highway. Working with Patrick Scott, a naturalist with the conservancy, they transplanted some overgrown native saltgrass from a demonstration plot. They used plugs of saltgrass to fill in bare areas along the trail from the parking lot to the walkbridge. They will also be maintaining those transplants, as anything planted at this time of year will need supplemental water until the rainy season begins in October.

Working with John Eckhoff, a plant specialist with DFG, the crew removed nonnative sea rocket and a new invasive plant, salt plantain. David Pryor, a biologist with California State Parks, had pointed out this new invasive plant at a training session at the conservancy a couple of months ago. It has just popped up at the state beaches locally and spread over to the ecological reserve. The corps crew nipped that problem in the bud, removing all of the sand plantain from the dunes along PCH.

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