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Channel Islands Restoration Works Towards Protecting Our Coastal Habitats

In 2021, CIR joined a coalition of organizations and individuals in saving the West Mesa of the San Marcos Foothills from development of luxury homes. In just 90 days the coalition raised $18.6 million to purchase the land from the developer.

Posted on November 27, 2023

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Participating in #GivingTuesday is not just about making a financial contribution; it’s a chance to contribute to the well-being of others and foster a spirit of kindness and community. Let’s collectively make this holiday season a time of giving, compassion, and positive change. Your support can help create a brighter and more hopeful future for those in need.

Our Good for Santa Barbara Nonprofit Section provides all the resources you need to donate this holiday season!

In this interview, Noozhawk spoke with Morey Spellman, Marketing Manager at Channel Islands Restoration to learn more about the nonprofit’s environmental restoration, education, and research work in the area.

Question: What is the name and mission of your nonprofit?

Answer: Channel Islands Restoration (CIR) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit contractor that works to restore habitats on the Channel Islands and adjacent mainland through invasive plant management, native plant propagation, and native plant installation. We promote environmental education on the Central Coast through lectures, service trips, and habitat restoration volunteer opportunities. We conduct research and monitoring to identify further habitat restoration efforts.

Q: How long has your nonprofit been in service, and who are its founders?

A: CIR was founded in 2002 as a volunteer project on Santa Cruz Island by Ken Owen and Duke McPherson. CIR eventually grew into a nonprofit organization providing services on behalf of four federal agencies, six state agencies, and nine local or tribal agencies. Since then, the organization has worked extensively on all the Channel Islands and in many special places on the mainland.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your nonprofit?

A: We were inspired to start CIR because of the previously unchecked spread of nonnative plants and the lack of understanding by most of the public that these plants are a big problem for the environment. This inspired the founders of the organization to work with volunteers to replace the nonnative plant species with native plants, and to educate our community about problematic invasive species.

Q: How is your nonprofit primarily funded and what are your greatest needs?

CIR has worked on all 8 Channel Islands over the last 20 years, including habitat restoration on Santa Rosa Island’s Cloud Forest

A: CIR is funded by a combination of grants, donations from the public, and contracts by government agencies.

Q: In what ways does your nonprofit utilize its funding?

A: CIR uses our funding to help save and preserve open space, and to provide educational and volunteer opportunities for young people and adults.

Q: Describe your organizations staffing models and internal operations. Has anything changed since the start of your nonprofit?

A: Twenty years ago, Channel Islands Restoration grew out of a dream by two people, who late in life fell in love with the unique species and extraordinary beauty of the California Channel Islands. We soon brought our enthusiasm for habitat restoration and environmental education to the mainland, and we have worked in many areas in Southern California that are as unique and beautiful as the islands off our coast. We now employee over 20 field technicians and a great managerial staff who keep our operations and communications running smoothly.

Q: How do people get involved/volunteer for your nonprofit?

Channel Islands Restoration has provided quality service-learning opportunities to school and youth groups on the California Channel Islands that emphasize habitat restoration and island ecology.

A: The public can get involved with CIR in many ways, and the best place to sign up to help is on our website. We need help with planting native plants, educating kids and adults through our docent program and help working on trails at the San Marcos Foothills Preserve. CIR works in many other areas, including on the Channel Islands, and we announce volunteer and educational activities through our email list.

Q: What makes your nonprofit different from others?

A: Our nonprofit is unique from other groups because we have varied sources of funding, and we rely on volunteers to help us carry out much of our work. We have worked with more than 12,000 adult volunteers since 2002 on projects on the remote and beautiful Channel Islands and in the backcountry wilderness. Since we can fund much of our staff time by providing contract services to government agencies, we are able to utilize grant funding and donations from the public to help pay for working in open spaces and educating the public. We not only provide education in classrooms, but we also teach people about the environment through volunteer stewardship.

Q: How does the work of your nonprofit get communicated to the public?

A: We have several thousand people on our email list, and even more people follow us through our social media channels.

Q: Why should donors trust your organization and are there other ways to help outside of donations?

A: We can be trusted by donors because of our well-earned reputation built over 20 years, and because we have our finances independently audited. Federal, state, and local governments, plus many nonprofit organizations have been working with CIR for as much as two decades, and we are known to deliver quality environmental restoration and educational services.


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