Located between Seal Beach and Huntington Beach are over 1,400 acres of the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, where efforts are underway to restore the wetlands that were once extensive marshland. The restoration of these wetlands as well as conservation of the natural environment require an ongoing community effort.
Established in the 1990s, the Bolsa Chica Conservancy is a private not-for-nprofit organization that strives to not only provide leadership in environmental restoration but to educate and inspire the public to get involved. Other groups contributing towards restoration and conservation on the Bolsa Chica Reserve include California Fish and Wildlife, Bolsa Chica Land Trust, and Amigos de Bolsa Chica.
Among the eight-person team at Bolsa Chica Conservancy, Senior Restoration Program Coordinator Mara Salisbury has a hand in the Rabbit Island restoration initiative, Harriett Wieder Regional Park project, and Ridgway’s rail nesting raft project.
Each of the Conservancy’s restoration projects include tailored plans to support the wildlife and landscape—on the environment’s timeline. Each project requires different levels of patience. The Ridgway’s rail, for instance, is a near-threatened species of bird that was once abundant in Southern California wetlands. According to Salisbury, the rails need at least two years of exposure to the nesting rafts before they will use them.
The Conservancy’s projects focus heavily on invasive plant removal. Most of the initiatives have now progressed beyond the point of planting native plants. The group is now focusing on hand-seeding and creating the best conditions for native plants to spread naturally.
Aside from the Conservancy team, hardworking volunteers are to credit for the restoration progress made at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. The public can register through the Conservancy’s website for public service days that are held on the second Saturday and last Sunday of every month. The group also offers long-term volunteer and internship opportunities.
While volunteering is a huge benefit to the reserve, there are steps anyone can take at home to help the environment.
“There’s a few things that you can be doing at home,” says Salisbury. “Knowing where your trash is going and making sure that you’re not leaving anything on the streets. Even trash from way inland can end up draining down on to the coastline.” Trash and debris removal is one of the activities carried out on public service days with the Conservancy.
If you have a yard, consider planting native plants. “There has been a push recently for folks in the area to switch to slender leaf milkweed, as opposed to the tropical milkweed,” says Salisbury. “The tropical one doesn’t actually provide the basic support for local pollinators, where our native milkweed does.”
Aside from supporting the local wildlife, native plants are more suited to the area. “Here in California, we’re in a drought, so we always want to be mindful of our water usage,” says Salisbury.
The Conservancy plans to host more native plant sales later this year. According to Salisbury, they are growing poppies, native milkweed, California brittlebush, sagebrush, and more. Although last year’s additions of a new nursery and interpretive center as well as a personnel changeover put the native plant sales on pause, the group hopes to bring them back soon.
Learn more at bolsachica.org