P.O. Box 789, Santa Paula, CA 93061 contact@santaclarariver.org

Mission & Current Projects

The Santa Clara River Conservancy (SCRC) is a conservation organization formed in 2009 to maintain connectivity of natural resources throughout the Santa Clara River Watershed. Based in the Santa Clara River valley, our primary goal is to protect native riparian habitat through restoration, conservation, education, and collaboration.

Mission Statement

The Santa Clara River Conservancy, representing the diverse interests of the Santa Clara River Watershed, from the flood plain to the highest tributaries seeks to:

  • Secure, hold and manage significant lands and waters that provide habitat for native biodiversity;
  • Sustain and restore natural ecosystem function;
  • Promote sustainable access to natural resources for people; including farming and recreation; and
  • Advance cooperation between the agricultural community and conservation to further common goals and create an integrated working landscape that stems the tide of urban encroachment.

Current Projects

  • Proposition 1 – Arundo Removal at the Sespe Cienega in Partnership with UCSB’s RIVR Lab

This project will remove 175 acres of Arundo donax (giant reed) from an extremely important portion of the Santa Clara River in Fillmore, initiating the restoration of a native ecosystem at the site of a critical historic wetland. The primary objective of this project is to protect native riparian woodlands and dependent wildlife from decline and loss owing to dominance by this destructive invasive plant. This area of mature cottonwood-willow forest is part of a larger property, owned by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, for long-term protection and enhancement of regionally-threatened habitat and wildlife species, including multiple listed and candidate species. The woodland is severely impacted by direct competition and water depletion by Arundo, and faces risk of catastrophic loss from Arundo-fueled wildfire that could eliminate fire-intolerant native forest species, as well as be carried into adjacent agricultural lands and coastal sage scrub.

Arundo removal is the first phase of implementation that will re-create a fully functioning riparian ecosystem necessary for native species, while decreasing the risk of detrimental fires. Arundo removal will also allow native vegetation to recover and sequester excessive nutrients discharged from the fish hatchery, thereby improving water quality before it enters the main channel of the Santa Clara River. Arundo removal will also save significant water resources resulting in increased water availability for sensitive terrestrial and aquatic species, as preliminary data from a nearby site indicated Arundo uses approx. 3-4 times the amount of water for evapotranspiration (Dudley and Cole 2010, Giessow et al. 2011). These changes will be long lasting and will contribute to the resilience of the ecosystem along the Santa Clara River in the face of potential climate change and natural disturbances.

Photos of the project site, which include the active river channel and the remaining watercress beds from the previous property owners.

From left to right: Native black walnut, Juglans californica; Native bush poppy, Dendromecon rigida; Masticated Arundo

  • Proposition 84 – Arundo Removal with California Trout

SCRC has partnered with California Trout to remove 30 acres of Arundo donax from within the riverbed and floodplain. Our work area is between Sespe Creek and Santa Paula Creek in Ventura County. Removing Arundo from the riverbed and floodplain conserves water, reduces risk of fire and flood, and improves riparian habitat for California sensitive species and federally listed species. SCRC works with contractors to physically and mechanically remove Arundo via cutting and mowing. Biological monitoring occurs throughout the project to guarantee protection of listed species, like the Least Bells Vireo.

Year 1: SCRC conducted pre-construction surveys to document all the flora and fauna, particularly endangered species, in the project site. We hired Mike Burns with Burns Equipment Services to mow the first 10 acres of Arundo in the project site. Mowing is ideal for Arundo removal because stands are often very dense and tall (sometimes over 15 feet tall). When mowed, Arundo will re-sprout stalks with big, broad leaves. Once the resprouts reach about 4-5 ft, they are sprayed with herbicide. The herbicide is transported into the rhizome and kills the plant. This is the most effective way to treat Arundo.

From left to right: Photo of Arundo being mowed in project site; Volunteers cutting and daubing Arundo in the project site;  Volunteers carrying cut Arundo out of project site.

Year 2: We have contracted R.A. Atmore and Sons to hand remove 11 acres of Arundo in an active river channel by using cut and daub and spraying methods. We have also hired Mike Burns with Burns Equipment Services to mow a total of 25 acres of Arundo. The mowed Arundo will grow back and be sprayed with herbicide. SCRC staff has completed 15 acres of cut and daub around native vegetation to ensure it is not harmed by future spraying. Our biological monitors are on site making sure our riparian resources are protected. As needed, SCRC revegetates areas by installing native pole cuttings and potted plants to areas where Arundo has been removed.

Left: Native vegetation standing after 15 acres of Arundo was mowed. Right: Mike Burns Mowing while carefully avoiding native vegetation. 

  • Wetlands Recovery Project – Sespe Cienega Habitat Restoration Project

SCRC has been contracted by Friends of the Santa Clara River to restore 7 – 8 acres of riparian habitat outside of the entrance of the Fillmore Fish Hatchery, which is owned by California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Project elements include: controlling non-native plants, revegetation with native riparian plants, community engagement, creating an interpretive trail, and biological monitoring. SCRC has worked with students from Briggs School in Santa Paula, Girl Scout Troop 60532, and has hosted several volunteer events.

From left to right: A student from Briggs School planting sedges in the project area (Photo by Sebastian Walton); Volunteers working together to install plants in the project area (Photo by Sergio Flores); A student from Briggs School watering the plants in the interpretive garden.

The interpretive garden is open to the public. California native plants line the trail and give visitors a chance to observe their beauty up-close. Brochures are available at the kiosk, both in English and Spanish, so that visitors can learn about the native plants as they stroll through the garden.

Left: The beginning stages of the nature trail and garden built by volunteers and students (Photo by Sebastian Walton). Right: A year later, the garden is filling in and the native plants are thriving (Photo by Hannah Garcia).


Girls Scouts from Troop 60532 constructed a kiosk for the interpretive garden (Photo by Olivia Long). 

Photos from a volunteer event. Volunteers finished installing native plants and weeded the garden. 

  • Santa Clara River Trustees Council – River Education for Third Graders

In August 2018, SCRC was awarded funds from the Trustees Council to provide education programs and field trips to third grade students in Ventura County. SCRC has partnered with US Fish and Wildlife Service to deliver these programs. Currently, we are working with students from Mountain Vista Elementary, Rio Real Elementary, and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Santa Paula.

Students receive an in-class presentation to provide an introduction to the Santa Clara River. Later, students visit a major tributary of the Santa Clara River to participate in hands-on activities led by biologists who study subjects in the river.




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