The news spews discouraging totals of infections, deaths, job loss, and under-provisioned medical staff. While we feel discouraged at best and ill at worst, good people continue to work on our behalf all around the county. In addition to health, safety and food workers are the dedicated organizations that support our local environment.
Santa Barbara Channelkeeper (SBCK) continues to be our water watchdog as we isolate. Its charge is “ensuring clean water, healthy aquatic habitats, and a strong and environmentally conscious community.”
During this in-between time Channelkeeper is reviewing, researching and developing written comments and testimony on new regulations affecting pollution across the Central Coast. Offshore, it continues to survey Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and check the water quality in the channel.
SBCK’s new marine debris and clean-up initiative still plans to launch this summer.
Channelkeeper remains dedicated to investigating pollution. If you observe a possible spill, fill out a Channelkeeper online report, email, or call 805-563-3377.
The Environmental Defense Center (EDC), likewise, continues apace in its work. The EDC has strived for more than a decade to end oil drilling off our coast. Platform Holly is the first of eight platforms to be plugged and decommissioned off our coast.
In addition to this important work, the EDC is pushing forward on:
· Reducing target shooting impacts in Los Padres National Forest.
· Ending oil leases off Carpinteria.
· Protecting steelhead trout while also ensuring sufficient water is available to replenish groundwater downstream for agriculture and local communities.
· Improving oil disaster response off the California coast.
· Safeguarding endangered species, halting offshore fracking, and safeguarding clean water.
These are tall orders for a lean organization. While we currently can’t stand up for the environment in council meetings, we can still write letters in support of the EDC’s projects.
Physical distances protocol prevents Channel Islands Restoration’s volunteer restoration projects for now, but staff continues to battle invasive species surging through a restoration area burned in the Cave Fire.
“As expected, the majority of the native plants are slowly re-growing from the burned-out stumps and roots,” said volunteer and outreach coordinator Tanner Yould. “They have evolved in these conditions and historically have had no reason to hurry and grow upwards, ‘choosing’ instead to maintain a strong and reliable root system.
“Usually, the invasives are mostly suppressed by healthy native habitat, but when a fire comes through, the invasives can spring up and take all the available light and nutrients. So just weeks after the Cave Fire, invasive plants were threatening to choke out the natives that were leisurely coming back to life.”
The Santa Barbara Land Trust is expanding public hours to encourage safe enjoyment of nature at the Arroyo Hondo Preserve. The preserve is now open 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays “as long as it is safe to do so and visitors practice social distancing.”
The dates are subject to change depending on CDC guidelines and public adherence to social distancing, so check online before you go. Only 30 can come at once, so reservations are required and can be made here.
Still other nature organizations are providing ways to steep yourself in the sounds and sights of nature from the safety of your home. Web cams provide peeks at poppy reserves, surf along the Ventura coastline, and eagle nesting activity on the Channel Islands.
The Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History features a plethora of activities and videos on its website.
Some final good news: the coronavirus’ effect on economic activity is allowing the environment a little breather during this crisis. The pandemic could also provide some important lessons.
“If we can think about how to prepare for climate change like a pandemic, maybe there will be a positive outcome to all of this,” said Christopher Jones. He is lead developer of the CoolClimate Network at the University of California, Berkeley. “We can help prevent crises in the future if we are prepared.”