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March 2019
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Camp Staffs Independently Combat Invasives

By Bob Rhein

Passing the eco-baton on Catalina sometimes means passing the Pulaski. The T-shaped digging tool that’s a Polish-named cousin of the pick is being wielded in the field on invasive plants by camp partners after Conservancy training.

Since 2008, Stop the Spread (STS) has been an intensified initiative of the Conservancy, which has worked with the staffs of eight camps and coves to eradicate invasive plants as part of the Conservancy’s Catalina Habitat Improvement and Restoration Program (CHIRP). The initiative has reached its tipping point as the staffs at several camps have taken responsibility to lead plant eradication efforts without a Conservancy STS coordinator.

“This places increasingly more responsibility on camp staff than Conservancy staff to deliver an accurate and effective message to program participants,” said Tony Summers, supervisor of the Conservancy’s Invasive Plant Program.

Two camp staffers who have become Level Two Naturalists and Master STS-trained instructors are Nicole Boriski and Katie Carey. They work at the Howlands Landing camp known as Catalina Environmental Leadership Program or CELP. The CELP camp for kids leases the Howlands Landing cove area in the West End from the Conservancy. Both Boriski and Carey completed the Conservancy’s free advanced Naturalist Training.

They spent three days in the classroom and in the field, training with CHIRP. Their field work included removing pampas grass and surveying for fig trees in Palisades and Sage Canyons as well as in Little Gibraltar watershed, and removing pine trees in upper Parsons watershed..

Sage Leadership -- Nicole Boriski and Katie Carey of the Catalina Environmental Leadership Program remove mature pampas grass in the bottom of Sage Canyon. Photo by Tony Summers

Palisades Surveys -- Hiking along the Palisades, camp leaders conduct pampas grass and fig surveys on the same day. Photo by Tony Summers

The goal of the Naturalist Training, devised and supervised by Conservancy Education Director Frank Hein, is to provide a solid foundation in Santa Catalina Island natural history from which Conservancy project partners can contribute to their future and the Island’s future as ecology-friendly members of this Island community. In Boriski and Carey’s cases, this training has included lessons in plant-invasion ecology, prioritization, mapping, monitoring, and best-management practices. It also provides the context for trainees to see how they fit into the bigger picture of Catalina Island invasive plant removal.

“It is hoped that events such as this will serve to strengthen our relationships with the Island’s youth camps, as well as increase communication and improve the quality of invasive plant education with their campers,” Summers said.

Ashley Prososki, a Mountain and Sea Adventures staff member at Camp Emerald Bay, is likely to be next in line to become a Level Two Naturalist and take over the responsibility of leading plant removal and other projects, Summers added.

At present, Stop the Spread is working with many of the user groups in eight channel-side coves of Catalina Island, including Camp Emerald Bay, Howlands Landing, Camp Cherry Valley, the University of Southern California Wrigley Institute, Fox Landing, Whites Landing, Toyon Bay and Gallaghers Cove.

The groups include Boy Scouts of America, Catalina Island Marine Institute, CELP, Catalina Island Camps, USC, The Catalina Experience, Mountain and Sea Adventures and InterVarsity/Campus by the Sea.

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