The city of Goleta has been granted more time to complete improvements at the Ellwood Mesa Monarch Butterfly Grove.
Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 115 last Wednesday, which extends the use of a $3.9 million grant from the California State Coastal Conservancy through June 2023, according to officials.
The grant was awarded to the city of Goleta in 2019 for design and implementation of the management plan at the Ellwood Mesa/Sperling Preserve open space, a 137-acre open space owned by the city and located on the eastern edge of the Gaviota Coast, said Kelly Hoover, city spokeswoman.
Ellwood Mesa is considered one of the most important sites for overwintering monarchs in the state. A portion of the site is designed by The Xerces Society as “the premier Monarch site in Southern California,” Ms. Hoover said.
The butterflies arrive at Ellwood Mesa in mid-September and, as winter approaches, cluster into aggregation roosts, often called overwintering or wintering colonies. The improvement project is needed because the monarch population is experiencing a sudden and significant decline in western North America. Monarch overwintering populations throughout California have been in steep decline for the past several years. Locally at Ellwood Mesa, monitoring indicated only 271 butterflies were present at the height of the migration this past winter, down drastically from a recent high of 47,500 butterflies in the grove during 2011-2012. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is currently evaluating whether the species warrants listing under the Endangered Species Act.
The grant funding will support enhancement of a 75-acre portion of the open space used by butterflies. The project includes implementing the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Management Plan, which identifies how the city will preserve, restore and enhance butterfly overwintering habitat.
The project also includes enhancement of other wildlife habitat, education and outreach, trail improvements, signage, monitoring, research, and implementation of the Community Wildfire Protection Plan.
Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblymember Monique Limón were considered “instrumental” in getting the funds included in the state’s budget bill and extended.
“On behalf of Goleta, I want to express our deepest thanks to Senator Jackson and Assemblymember Limón for their stellar efforts to secure nearly $4 million to fund and implement our Habitat Management Plan,” Goleta Mayor Paula Perotte said in a statement. “Thanks to them, generations of Goletans will enjoy safe and easy access to Ellwood Mesa, the butterfly preserve, and our beaches and ocean.”