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California

Santa Cruz Island


Twenty-five miles off the coast of southern California lies Santa Cruz Island, the largest of California’s eight Channel Islands. More than 1,000 species of plants and animals inhabit the island’s high peaks, deep canyons, pastoral valleys, and 77 miles of dramatic coastline.

Once on the brink of ecological collapse, Santa Cruz Island now offers visitors a glimpse of what southern California used to be like hundreds of years ago.

After three decades of tireless work, Santa Cruz Island has emerged as a leading example for successful island restoration and innovative conservation. Today, the Conservancy and its partners are focused on preserving the island’s unique plants and animals and sharing lessons learned in island restoration with other island conservation projects around the world.

Island History

When The Nature Conservancy purchased most of Santa Cruz Island in 1978, it was an island in crisis.

  • Feral pigs and sheep — descendants of introduced domestic livestock — overgrazed the island, severely altering its natural systems and landscape.
  • Ten species of plants and animals faced extinction, including the Santa Cruz Island fox — the island’s top predator for thousands of years.
  • A new island predator — the golden eagle — moved in from the mainland to prey on piglets and island foxes, wiping out 95% of the fox population in less than a decade.
  • The island’s native bald eagles, which are highly territorial and prey on fish rather than foxes, had been wiped out by DDT contamination nearly five decades ago, leaving golden eagles free to devastate the fox population.
An Island Comes Alive

The Conservancy worked with its partners — the National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Fish and Game — to engage in an intensive, science-based restoration program to save the island fox and revitalize the natural communities of Santa Cruz Island.

As part of this effort, feral sheep and pigs were removed from the island, and golden eagles were captured and relocated to the mainland. Bald eagle chicks were reintroduced and carefully raised and released into the wild.

Efforts to restore the fox population were initiated in 2002, and the fox program has been heralded as one of the fastest and most successful endangered species recovery programs in the country.

For the first time in over 150 years, the island is free of non-native animals and native species are flourishing.

Santa Cruz Island restoration milestones:
  • Feral sheep removed in the 1980s.
  • Unprecedented removal of feral pigs in 18 months; the island has been pig-free since 2006.
  • More than 1,200 foxes now live in the wild, up from fewer than 100 in 2004.
  • Bald eagles now reside and nest successfully on the island, for the first time in over half a century.
  • No golden eagles have nested on the island since 2006.
  • Native plants are flourishing and are re-vegetating formerly barren hillsides.
  • Oak seedlings abound, now that the pigs — which feasted on oak acorns — are gone.
Managing the Present, Protecting the Future

The restoration of Santa Cruz Island has been a resounding success and will allow thousands of visiting boaters and hikers each year to enjoy this unique landscape. However, managing human interaction with native plants and animals is vital to maintaining the island’s health. Our research, restoration and outreach efforts continue:

  • Regular check-ups on the island’s radio-collared foxes to monitor their health and administer vaccinations for canine distemper — a disease easily contracted from domestic dogs illegally brought ashore by boaters
  • Ongoing native plant restoration and invasive weed management activities
  • Educating visitors on the importance of protecting the island’s delicate ecology and preventing the introduction of non-native species
  • Vaccinating the rare and vulnerable island scrub-jay against West Nile virus, a disease that has yet to establish on the island but that is particularly deadly to this species
Did You Know...?

Santa Cruz Island Harbors:

  • more than 650 vascular plant species (75% of which are native)
  • over 200 species of birds
  • 8 species of reptiles and amphibians
  • 7 mammal species (3 of which are bats)
  • 12 species found nowhere else on Earth  

 

The Nature Conservancy owns 76% of Santa Cruz Island, and manages it in close collaboration with the National Park Service, which owns the remaining 24%. Visitors may explore the Santa Cruz Island preserve either through a naturalist-guided hike with Island Packers or, in the case of private non-commercial boaters, by obtaining a landing permit. Island Packers is contracted through the park to help visitors plan for day and camping trips as well as provide transportation to Santa Cruz Island. They can be contacted at (805) 642-1393 or www.islandpackers.com. Visitors arriving on their own vessels may apply to the Santa Cruz Island Landing Permit Program for day access to the Conservancy property. Limited public access to the Santa Cruz Island preserve requires sufficient time for securing the permit approval or the appropriate reservations with Island Packers; we encourage you to plan ahead.

The use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) (utility vehicles, Segways, golf carts, etc) on The Nature Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island has been assessed in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. Based on the assessments, use of OPDMDs on The Nature Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island is prohibited.

Landing Permit Program

You may now apply for landing permits using our online application and payment process. We accept major credit cards through our secure website, making the application process easier and faster!

To apply for a landing permit, visit www.nature.org/cruzpermit.

Thank you for your cooperation and participation in the Santa Cruz Island landing permit program. Your continued assistance with the natural stewardship of the island is appreciated.

Do I need a landing permit to go ashore on Santa Cruz Island?
How many people can be brought out on a landing permit?
How do I get a landing permit?
Is there a cost for the permit?
How much time will it take for me to receive my permit?
What does the landing permit provide?
Can I go anywhere on the Conservancy's property on Santa Cruz Island with a landing permit?
Can I camp on Santa Cruz Island?
Can I have a campfire on Santa Cruz Island?
Can I bring my dog ashore on Santa Cruz Island?
Can I collect wildflowers or other souvenirs from Santa Cruz Island?
Where is the best anchorage to land on Santa Cruz Island?
When is the best time to visit Santa Cruz Island?
Do I need a landing permit for my kayak?
Are there any restrooms on Santa Cruz Island?
Can I use my Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) (utility vehicles, Segways, golf carts, etc) at the Santa Cruz Island Preserve?

Do I need a landing permit to go ashore on Santa Cruz Island?

Yes. A landing permit is required by all private boaters and kayakers before they go ashore on The Nature Conservancy's portion of Santa Cruz Island (view map of Santa Cruz Island). The Conservancy owns the western 76% of the island, with the remaining 24% of the island under National Park Service ownership. Permits are only issued to private boats, not to commercial vessels or commercial charter parties. Permits are only valid during daylight hours; visitors are not permitted ashore after sunset or before sunrise.

Landing permits are available for 30 consecutive days or for one calendar year. All annual permits expire on December 31st in the year they are issued.

Landing on the National Park Service's property on the eastern portion of Santa Cruz Island does not require a permit from The Nature Conservancy. For permission to land on the National Park Service's property, call Channel Islands National Park at (805) 658-5700.

How many people can be brought out on a landing permit?

Landing permits are issued to one applicant only for a single boat with a maximum group size of ten persons.

How do I get a landing permit?

Apply online at www.nature.org/cruzpermit.

Is there a cost for the permit?

Yes. You may obtain a permit for 30 consecutive days for $30, or a calendar year permit for $70. All annual permits expire on December 31 in the year they are issued. A permit is required for each boat, and signed waivers are required for all crew members coming ashore.

How much time will it take for me to receive my permit?

Please allow at least 10 business days prior to your planned departure for application approval, processing and delivery of your permit.

What does the landing permit provide?

The Nature Conservancy's landing permit for Santa Cruz Island provides private boaters and kayakers access to the Conservancy's portion of the island for parties of ten persons or less. The fees from the permit system go toward the Conservancy's preservation efforts on the island, and they help cover the costs of administering the landing permit program. The permit application packet includes the application itself along with a list of visitor rules pertaining to the protection of the property and a liability release form. Anyone wishing to come ashore must have agreed to the rules and regulations and have signed the release form. No pets are allowed on shore.

Can I use the landing permit to go anywhere on the Conservancy's property on Santa Cruz Island?

Access to the portions of the island owned by The Nature Conservancy will be permitted, with the following inland access restrictions:

  • No hiking into or in the central valley of Santa Cruz Island is allowed (map provided with landing permit), or on the canyon road (Canada del Puerto) south of Prisoners’ Harbor.
  • No access to Christy Beach is allowed.
  • While on any portion of Santa Cruz Island owned by The Nature Conservancy, the permit holder and all members of the permit holder’s party, whenever separated from the permit holder, must carry a copy of the permit and show it to The Nature Conservancy’s staff, if requested.
Can I camp on Santa Cruz Island?

No. Your landing permit is valid only during daylight hours. Camping is prohibited on The Nature Conservancy's portion of Santa Cruz Island. The National Park Service does provide camping facilities on their eastern portion of the island. For more information, contact Channel Islands National Park at (805) 658-5700.

Can I have a campfire on Santa Cruz Island?

No, due to extreme fire danger, there is no smoking or building fires of any type allowed on Santa Cruz Island.

Can I bring my dog ashore on Santa Cruz Island?

No pets of any kind (including, but not limited to, cats and dogs) are allowed on Santa Cruz Island. Domestic and non-native animals brought to the island can easily and unknowingly transmit diseases to native island wildlife, as well as damage the island's natural habitats in ways that will imperil these unique plants and animals.

Please do not bring any plants, seeds or cut flowers onto the island, and check your shoes for weed seeds before walking on the island.

Santa Cruz Island supports a remarkably diverse population of plants and animals, including 12 found nowhere else in the world. Help us to preserve and protect the island's native biodiversity by not bringing things that do not naturally occur there. Please respect the island's native flora and fauna, and keep non-native species off the island.

Can I collect wildflowers or other souvenirs from Santa Cruz Island?

No souvenirs or specimens of anything found on the Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island may be taken from the island. You may not disturb any Native American sites or other architectural remains located on the island, or disturb the terrain in any way.

Cutting down, injury of, picking of, collection of or other disturbance of any trees or other plants or vegetation is not allowed, whether or not the plants are living or dead.

Where is the best anchorage to land on Santa Cruz Island?

Santa Cruz Island has a variety of habitats and beautiful anchorages to share with its visitors. Check local weather, Santa Barbara Channel conditions and the extended forecast before visiting and make your determination on destination based on these factors.

When is the best time to visit Santa Cruz Island?

The island has something to offer its visitors throughout the entire year. Each season brings with it a change of weather, colors and beauty. Choose the best time for your visit based on weather, Santa Barbara Channel conditions and the extended forecast. All of these factors change during the year and from day to day as well.

Do I need a landing permit for my kayak?

If you plan on going ashore, yes, you do need a landing permit. All boaters who wish to go onto The Nature Conservancy’s property are required to have landing permits. (On the application, under "Boat name and/or CF#," please write "kayak.")

Are there any restrooms on Santa Cruz Island?

There is one public restroom located on the northern boundary of The Nature Conservancy’s property, where it adjoins the National Park Service’s property at Prisoners Harbor on the north shore of the island.

Can I use my Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) (utility vehicles, Segways, golf carts, etc) at the Santa Cruz Island Preserve?

The use of Other Power Driven Mobility Devices (OPDMDs) (utility vehicles, Segways, golf carts, etc) on The Nature Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island has been assessed in accordance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) regulations. Based on the assessments, use of OPDMDs on The Nature Conservancy’s portion of Santa Cruz Island is prohibited.

Discussion

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