Q: How did the Conservancy come to be?
In 1972, members of the Wrigley and Offield family established the Catalina Island Conservancy as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, dedicated to the restoration and protection of Catalina Island's wildlands. On February 15, 1975, the final step was taken to ensure the protection of the majority of the Island when Helen and Philip K. Wrigley and Mrs. Dorothy Wrigley Offield, through the Santa Catalina Island Company
, deeded 42,135 acres of the Island to the Conservancy. With this gift, the conservation and restoration of most of Catalina's interior and 62 miles of its coastline were given permanent status in perpetuity under sole stewardship by the Conservancy. Prior to this, in 1974, they entered into a 50-year open space agreement with Los Angeles County, guaranteeing public recreational and educational use of 41,000 acres of Santa Catalina Island, consistent with good land conservation practices.
Q: What does the Conservancy do?
The Conservancy works actively to keep Catalina wild by engaging in conservation and restoration efforts that have roots in sound science. The Conservancy provides lifelong learning opportunities to help children and adults discover and understand their connections to nature. It supports recreational experiences on the Island that are a model for balancing human uses with nature’s needs. By inspiring visitors to become responsible stewards of the living Earth, the Conservancy helps to ensure that today’s children and future generations will be able to enjoy Catalina Island’s abundance of natural beauty.
Q: Why do you have to manage Catalina’s wildlands — can’t you just let them be wild?
A: While a large portion of Catalina Island is in an undeveloped state, it wasn’t always that way. Catalina Island was home to a number of agricultural, mining and cattle operations in its rich historical past, all of which left their marks (and a few leftover species) on the land. A number of introduced species of plants and animals have found their way into the Island’s interior through various means, largely brought by well-meaning people. Through these actions we now have bison and deer, cats and frogs, a number of exotic plants (some of them quite invasive), and many insects and other creatures (and a few that have been already removed, such as sheep, cattle, pigs, and goats). All of these alien species have the potential to negatively affect the fragile equilibrium of native ecosystems. Introduced species compete with the native species that are often at a disadvantage. Pressures from introduced species can also include disease, such as an outbreak of canine distemper virus in 1999 that necessitated emergency intervention to save the Island’s endemic fox. In addition, Catalina’s wildlands face pressures from recreational use, and this is only likely to increase in the future as population increases.
Conservancy managers work to restore some of the balance lost due to these many pressures, through invasive species removal, restoration of habitats degraded by former and current activities (some of them necessary, such as roads), monitoring of the natural environments to detect invaders and avoid their problematic side effects, and recreational management plans. Without this management, the native habitats and species would slowly degrade or even disappear.
Q: How are Conservancy policies established?
Q: What can people do to support the Conservancy?
A: The Catalina Island Conservancy Board of Directors as a whole has responsibility for overall governance of the organization, and determines policy in the following areas: conservation, education and recreation programs, human resources, finance, development, community relations, operations and strategic planning.
The Conservancy relies on its members, donors and sponsors to allow us to continue our mission of being responsible stewards of the land through a balance of conservation, education and recreation. For more information about how you can help, click here
Board of Directors of the Catalina Island Conservancy
Q: Who are the members of the Board?
A: The Catalinas Island Conservancy Board of Directors is a diverse group of people from many walks of life with expertise in science, finance, business, communications and local governance. What board members have in common is a love for Catalina Island and a commitment to the mission of the Conservancy.
Q: Can the Conservancy do whatever it wants with the lands it stewards?
A: The 88 percent of the Island that the Conservancy stewards, was deeded to the Conservancy to be protected in perpetuity as a nature preserve. In brief, appropriate use of the lands include (from the organization’s Articles of Incorporation):
- “…to preserve native plants and animals, biotic communities, geological and geographical formations of educational interest, as well as open-spaced lands used solely for the enjoyment of scenic beauty…
- “To promote the study of ecology, including terrestrial and aquatic, natural history, archaeology and conservation, and
- “To promote the ecologically-sound and appropriate recreational and educational use of the property…by the general public, scientists and others.”
Q: What would happen to Catalina Island if the Conservancy were to dissolve for some reason?
A: According to the Conservancy’s Articles of Incorporation, the property of the Conservancy is irrevocably dedicated to charitable purposes and, if dissolution is required, all the Conservancy’s assets would be transferred exclusively for charitable purposes, as directed by the Attorney General of the State of California.
Q: Is Catalina a part of the Channel Islands National Park?
A: No. The five northern Channel Islands that comprise the Channel Islands National Park are: San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz, Anacapa and Santa Barbara. The National Park Service and The Nature Conservancy jointly manage Santa Cruz Island. San Clemente and San Nicholas are both property of the U.S. Navy. Catalina Island is the only entirely privately managed Channel Island, yet it is the Island with the greatest public access and the only resident population of significance.
Access to Conservancy-Stewarded Lands
Q: Are private vehicles allowed to go into the Island’s interior?
A: Yes. For policy information, click here.
Q: How can I get to see Catalina’s wildlands?
A: There are a number of opportunities, perhaps one of the best is the Conservancy's Jeep Eco Tour, on which you'll be able to pick with your guide the places you wish to see.
The Catalina Island Conservancy requires hiking permits. Click here for more information about obtaining permits and planning your hike.
For more information about the Freewheeler Bike Pass, click here
Jeep ® Eco Tour
This personally guided tour is unique and exclusively designed to present the best the Island has to offer. Guests will see the Island’s spectacular interior with views of its rugged coastline. The Conservancy uses four-wheel drive vehicles, operated by staff with off-road and naturalist training. Every tour may be customized with a choice of snacks or lunch. Click here to book your tour today.
To get to the Airport in the Sky from Avalon, most people prefer to take the Conservancy’s Wildlands Express. For more transportation ideas, click here.
Camping is the most intimate way to enjoy Catalina Island’s rugged beauty. Catalina Campgrounds include Two Harbors, Parsons Landing, Blackjack, Little Harbor and Hermit Gulch. Boat-in campgrounds are also available at Rippers Cove, Paradise Cove, Lava Wall, Gibraltar Cove, Cabrillo Cove, Goat Harbor, Italian Gardens, Long Point Beach and Willow Cover.
Read more about campgrounds for boat-in campsites.
For more information, click here.
Snorkeling and Scuba Diving
For more information, click here.
Q: Are there educational programs in which my family and I can participate?
Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden
Visitors to the 37-acre Garden will discover the sweet scents and colorful blooms of myriad varieties of Island plants, several of which are found on Catalina and no where else in the world. A comprehensive interpretive display highlights Catalina endemic plants, Island natives and other plants native to California, including the rare Catalina mountain mahogany. The magnificent Wrigley Memorial honors the memory of William Wrigley Jr., instrumental in the history of Catalina. The Memorial was built in 1933-34 using as many Catalina materials as possible. Click here for more information.
Nature Centers at Avalon Canyon and Airport in the Sky
The Conservancy’s two Nature Centers are a great way to become acquainted with the natural history of Catalina Island. At the Nature Center at the Airport in the Sky, visitors will enjoy an interpretation of Catalina’s various habitats and the plants that are associated with them. Its native plant garden’s beauty is a testament to the value of California native plants in landscaped areas. At the Nature Center at Avalon Canyon, visitors will enjoy self-guided exhibits, hands-on activities for kids, evening lecture series and outdoor exhibits all highlighting the Conservancy’s conservation work on the Island. The nature centers are open free to the public.
Conservation Efforts on Catalina Island
Q: What does conservation mean?
A: Conservation is a branch of science that deals with the preservation, restoration, management and sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. Conservation does NOT mean keeping people away from the wilderness or from the enjoyment and utilization of nature’s bounties. It means a balance between the needs of the environment and its constituents (ecosystems, habitats and species as well as clean air and water) with the needs of the human population.
Q: What is ecological restoration?
A: Ecological restoration is the process of altering an area in such a way as to reestablish an ecosystem’s structure and function, usually bringing it back to its original (pre-disturbance) state or to a healthy state close to the original.
American Bald Eagles
Q: How many bald eagles are there on Catalina Island?
A: About two dozen, including several nesting pairs.
Q: Were there always bald eagles on Catalina Island?
A: Bald eagles were common on Catalina Island until the 1970s when the cumulative effects of the dumping of DDT off the Southern California Coast near San Pedro made it impossible for eagles to successfully hatch young. The eagles now on the Island are the product of a recovery effort undertaken by the Institute for Wildlife Studies on the protected lands of the Conservancy.
Q: Are bison native to Catalina?
A: No. The bison were introduced to Catalina. Fourteen were brought to the Island in the 1924 for the making of a film. The animals were left on the Island and proliferated. The herd grew as large as perhaps 600 individuals.
Q: Since bison are not native, why do you keep them on Catalina?
A: Over the near century of residence on the Island, bison have become an expected feature, almost iconic, to the Island traveler. A number of tours, literature and attractions feature the bison, which have become rather famous. In 2003, the Conservancy commissioned a scientific study of the bison and their impact on the Island. According to the study, the bison suffer from a poor diet due to frequent drought conditions and a history of overgrazing by other non-native herbivores. The study also found that the animals are significantly smaller than mainland bison, and appear in relatively poor nutritional condition.
The study additionally concluded that while a large, unrestricted herd of bison can be detrimental to some of the more fragile native habitats, a small herd of anout 150 restricted to certain areas of the Island could be sustained without causing undue stress to native plant communities. The Conservancy is sensitive to the wants and needs of the resident community, and has adopted this strategy.
Q: Is it true that the Conservancy’s intent is to eliminate bison on the Island?
A: No. In fact, the Conservancy is committed to maintaining a herd of between 150 and 200 animals, the number determined through a scientific study to be optimum for keeping both the herd and the Island ecosystem healthy.
Q: Why are there so many feral cats on Catalina?
A: The feral cat population has grown on the Island over the years largely due to the releases of domestic cats by people.
Q: Are feral cats healthy?
A: In fact, domestic cats are not equipped to survive unaided in Catalina’s wildlands and they also live a difficult life in the city. They face severe shortages of food, shelter and veterinary care. In the interior, their lives can be extremely difficult. In Avalon and at Two Harbors, volunteers, some affiliated with the Catalina Island Humane Society, work to care for the feral cat population, providing food, fresh water, and medical care as part of a spay-neuter-release program aimed at controlling their population. In the interior, the Conservancy discourages their feeding, since an ample food supply encourages population growth and fuels an unsustainable and detrimental situation for both pets and wildlife.
Q: What is the Conservancy’s policy on feral cats?
A: In the interior, the Conservancy’s charge, conservation biologists are concerned about interactions between feral cats and native animals. The presence of feral cats poses a proven threat to native birds, mice, and the rare shrew. Additionally, diseases carried by cats that don’t have the benefit of regular veterinary care may be detrimental to the Island’s federally endangered fox. Currently, the Conservancy’s practice regarding feral cats is consistent with that of the Humane Society: animals trapped accidentally during fox-trapping/monitoring are examined, and, if free from incurable and contagious disease, are spayed or neutered and released. Animals found to test positive for Feline Leukemia or Feline Immunodeficiency are humanely euthanized. Younger cats including kittens may be adopted from the Catalina Island Humane Society for a modest donation.
Catalina Island Fox
Q: Why is the Catalina Island fox listed as a federally endangered species?
A: The Catalina Island fox in one of five island fox subspecies found on the Channel Islands. In 1999, researchers on Catalina Island detected a severe crash in the population of Catalina foxes, particularly on the East End of the Island. The cause of the demise of almost all of the East End foxes was traced to an outbreak of canine distemper virus, a lethal disease. The Conservancy, working with the Institute for Wildlife Studies, acted swiftly to vaccinate all remaining foxes on the Island, initiated a captive breeding program, using foxes from the West End, and moved a few individuals (properly protected with vaccines) from the West End to the East End. In order to aid the recovery process and to protect the remaining foxes, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared the Catalina Island fox an endangered subspecies, providing an additional level of protection to the threatened population. The captive breeding program was ended in 2004. The Catalina fox population rebounded past historical levels in 2012 and 1,500 foxes now inhabit the Island. The recovery is one of the most remarkable in Endangered Species List annals.
Q: Is the source of the distemper that infected Catalina Island’s foxes known?
A: Yes. The source was determined by scientific study to be a raccoon. Raccoons are not native to Catalina. The vector probably was a stowaway aboard a boat. Anyone seeing a raccoon on Catalina is asked to call the Conservancy immediately.
Q: Does the Conservancy have a plan to get rid of all non-native animals?
A: No. The bison, as an example, are a part of the cultural fabric of the Island and based on a scientific study, the Conservancy manages the herd at between 150 and 200 animals, which is healthy both for the herd and the Island ecosystem. Further, the Conservancy has no plan to ban pets from the portion of the Island it stewards, but rather, to work collaboratively with stakeholders to minimize negative impacts to wildlife at the places where pets and wildlife may come in contact. The interaction between the Island’s non-native deer and the plant communities is currently being studied, with the Conservancy implementing a hunting program through a Private Lands Management agreement with the California Department of Fish and Game. It is important to note that the Conservancy has no jurisdiction over the parts of the Island it does not steward, such as the City of Avalon and Santa Catalina Island Company holdings.
Q: Does the Conservancy have a plan to get rid of all non-native plants on the Island?
A: No. Besides not having jurisdiction over portions of the Island it doesn’t steward, the Conservancy could not get rid of all the non-native plants on the Island if it wanted to do that. Too many exist with wide ranges to eradicate them. The Conservancy has mapped non-native plant populations and ranked them, with the most highly invasive and easiest to eradicate or control at the top of the list. Left to their own devices, highly invasive non-native plants pose threats to wildlife by pushing out native plants animals depend upon. Non-natives would dominate the Island, including killing off the native plant communities that make Catalina unique. The eucalyptus trees found along Stagecoach road are non-native, but are not highly invasive. Because of their non-invasive growth pattern and their place in the cultural heritage of the Island, they are not targeted for replacement, except when they die of natural causes.
Boating Around Catalina
Q: How can I learn more about boating on Catalina Island?
A: Two Harbors or visit the Avalon Harbor Department’s website
Q: What Yacht Clubs have facilities on Catalina Island?
A: The following yacht clubs are located on Catalina Island Conservancy land:
- Moonstone – Newport Harbor Yacht Club
- Buffalo (Whites East) – San Diego Yacht Club
- Whites West – Balboa Yacht Club
- Little Geiger – Offshore Cruising Club
- Santa Catalina Island Company has the following leases:
The following yacht clubs are located on Santa Catalina Island Company land:
- Big Geiger Cove – Blue Water Cruising Club
- Little Fisherman's Cove – Channel Cruising Club
- Ballast Point – California Yacht Club
- Cherry Cove – Cherry Cove Yacht Club
- Emerald Bay – Corsair Yacht Club
- Catalina Harbor – Del Rey Yacht Club
- Fourth of July Cove – Fourth of July Yacht Club
- Two Harbors – Isthmus Yacht Club
- Little Fisherman's Cove – King Harbor Yacht Club
- Howland's Landing – Los Angeles Yacht Club
Q: Who is responsible for administering these leases?
A: Paul DeMyer, Group Vice President, Real Estate manages the Santa Catalina Island Company leases. Chief Operating Officer Joe Kalla manages the Catalina Island Conservancy leases.
Q: Who manages the moorings on Catalina Island?
A: Outside of the City of Avalon, Two Harbors Enterprises (THE), a subsidiary of the Santa Catalina Island Company, manages the moorings and the Harbor Patrol. Within the harbor at Avalon, the City of Avalon Harbor Department manages the moorings.
Q: What services can I expect while boating around Catalina?
A: The moorings outside of Avalon are serviced by THE and provide: garbage pickup, harbor patrol, servicing of moorings, health and safety services, potable water and management of leased lands. The Harbor Patrol collects fees from transient users, enforces all rules established for mooring use and ensures that all fairways are kept clear for public access to piers, moorings and beaches. The patrol assists boaters during mooring and un-mooring as necessary, and assists in safe and orderly anchoring. It responds to emergencies, including boat fires and health crises, calls for paramedic services and provides interim first aid until paramedics arrive.
Q: What are the mooring rates on Catalina?
A: Mooring rates Outside of Avalon and in City of Avalon Harbor Department.
Q: What public facilities on Catalina are operated by the Conservancy?
A: The Conservancy has responsibility for the Airport in the Sky, the nature centers at the airport and Avalon Canyon and the Wrigley Memorial & Botanic Garden in Avalon Canyon.
Q: How many employees comprise the Conservancy? What are the departments?
A: There are approximately 75 to 85 full-time and part-time Conservancy employees, dependin on the season.
Q: How can I become a member or volunteer of the Catalina Island Conservancy?
A: Click here to find volunteer opportunities with the Conservancy.