Goleta to Receive $3.9 Million for Monarch Grove
Ellwood Monarch Grove in Goleta (Photo: Robert Bernstein)
Source: City of Goleta
The City of Goleta is thrilled to announce that the State Budget, signed today by Governor Jerry Brown, includes $3.9 million in funding for the Ellwood Monarch Butterfly Grove. These funds will help the City of Goleta address the management and restoration actions related to the butterfly habitat at Ellwood Mesa which has suffered greatly because of the drought.
“The City of Goleta is grateful for the leadership of Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson in securing funding for this important project. The Ellwood Monarch Butterfly Grove is a precious resource within our City limits that we must carefully and thoughtfully work to protect in perpetuity,” said Mayor Paula Perotte. “These funds will help the City engage in a robust outreach process during the development of the management plan and also provide assistance in the restoration process.”
Senator Jackson said, “The people of Goleta have had a longstanding commitment to preserving this critical habitat for the extraordinary Monarch butterfly. I have been privileged to participate in that process and I am committed to ensuring the continued enjoyment of this area, both for the butterflies and those who appreciate them.”
The funds will be available as grants for this project through the State Coastal Conservancy.
In the summer of 2017, the City of Goleta received the results of a tree health assessment performed as part of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan preparation process. The results revealed the presence of more than 1,000 standing dead and dying eucalyptus trees (over 20% of the population of the grove) on Ellwood Mesa. Many of these trees were severely impacted by the drought, which increased their vulnerability to the invasion of pests.
The City Council discussed options to address habitat impacts and public safety risks resulting from the presence of dead and dying trees during two public meetings in September 2017. After a great deal of public comment and City Council deliberation, the Council approved a plan to remove 28 trees along key public trails.
The City Council asked staff to expedite the development of a management plan and permitting process, which typically takes 3-5 years, with permitting and environmental review. The draft plan will include management and restoration actions related to changing conditions on Ellwood Mesa. Specifically, continuing severe drought and the extensive presence of dead trees create unique resource management challenges that will need to be addressed by the Plan.
The Ellwood Mesa is also home to many other vulnerable plant and animal species, and is a key nesting site for several different types of raptors. The vast canopy and understory provide critical habitat for these species, while the trees counter act the effect of greenhouse gas emissions. The City Council is committed to the effort of restoring the Ellwood Mesa and maintaining this valuable resource for the enjoyment of the community. The City requested an allocation of $4 million for the Ellwood Mesa Habitat Management Plan and restoration for the nearly 74 acres it covers.
The Ellwood Mesa is the heart of Goleta for many people and symbolizes the commitment the City has made to protect and restore critical coastal open space. The monarch butterfly holds a special place in the hearts of many Goleta residents, and is part of our City’s identity, as it appears on our logo and was the inspiration for the name of our community newsletter, The Monarch Press.
Ellwood Main is designated by The Xerces Society as “the premier Monarch site in southern California” (https://xerces.org/where-to-
For many years prior to the drought, thousands of visitors a year came to Ellwood Main to view tens-of-thousands of butterflies. The County-wide survey report of monarch butterfly aggregation sites conducted in 1998-1999, stated, “Year after year, Ellwood Main is the most visited site in Santa Barbara County.” It remained a highly visited location until the grove was closed in 2017 due to the many dead and dying trees along trails and butterfly viewing areas. Multiple aggregation sites are essential to the survival of the monarch butterfly overwintering phenomena, especially as development, climate change, and drought affect tree health and eliminate aggregation locations. Monarch butterfly numbers have dropped dramatically in the recent years, prompting consideration for listing the species as threatened or endangered. Only by protecting their habitat will they survive.