Part I: Carpinteria Salt Marsh: Background and Natural History
Carpinteria Salt Marsh is an estuary located on the south coast of Santa Barbara County in southern California (Fig. 1). It covers approximately 230 acres (93 hectares) and includes intertidal estuarine wetlands, adjacent palustrine wetlands and some subtidal deep water habitat in natural and artificial channels (Fig. 2). The estuary provides habitat for a rich assemblage of native plants and animals including many species of special interest such as endangered plants (e.g., Salt Marsh Bird's-beak) and animals (e.g., Light-footed Clapper Rail). An estimated 90% of the estuarine wetlands in southern California have been destroyed by filling or dredging during the past century, and the remaining 10% are largely degraded fragments of historically larger estuaries. For these reasons, the extent and quality of the natural resources of Carpinteria Salt Marsh made it a likely candidate for inclusion into the University of California Natural Reserve System. Acquisition of 120 acres (49 hectares) occurred in June 1977, following which the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve (CSMR) became the 23rd reserve added to the UC Natural Reserve System (Fig. 3).
1.0 University of California Natural Reserve System
In 1965, the UC Board of Regents established the Natural Reserve System (NRS) to provide undisturbed samples of California's natural habitats for instruction and research (UC NRS 1991). In the 30 years since its formation, the NRS has grown from seven to 33 reserves that encompass over 135,000 acres. The University owns approximately 20% of this land, whereas the remaining 80% is managed by the University through a combination of conservation easements, leases, or use agreements with individuals and public and private agencies (UC NRS 1991). The NRS is a University-wide program that functions as part of the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Each reserve is assigned to one of the eight UC campuses for administration. CSMR and five other UC reserves are managed by the Office of the UC Santa Barbara Natural Reserve System.
In the "Final Report of the Natural Reserve System Steering Committee on Long-Range Planning" (UC NRS 1991), the Committee provided the following background that demonstrates the timeliness of preparing reserve management plans such as this one for CSMR:
For  years, the Natural Reserve System has concentrated on acquiring land - on setting aside valuable teaching and research sites while they're still available. Although NRS will continue to consider requests to take gifts of land and assume management responsibilities, the time has come when NRS needs to complete its acquisition phase so that full attention may be paid to (1) providing the facilities, equipment, environmental monitoring systems, personnel, and support services needed to make field sites more useful to the UC academic community, and (2) integrating the NRS into the academic programs of the campuses. This new phase will require vigorous leadership and a change in organization. Nevertheless, the NRS would not now be poised for this new phase had it not been for the success of the [past] leadership that has made the NRS the most outstanding university program of its kind in the world.
The UCSB Natural Reserve System is administered by the UCSB Marine Science Institute, an Organized Research Unit within the campus' Office of Research. The Director of the UCSB NRS is advised by an NRS Advisory Committee, which consists of faculty, staff, and students from many departments, as well as members from the community with shared interests. All reserves managed by UCSB have faculty and reserve managers in addition to stewards. An administrative Assistant and Associate Director also assist the UCSB NRS Director. In the "UCSB NRS Annual Report 1994-1995", the Director provided the following vision:
Our major goals, of course, revolve around maintaining and augmenting NRS's personnel, facilities, and natural resources so that they provide the maximum benefit for the University's research, teaching, and public outreach activities. Our visions for the future include a series of reserves that contain diverse, natural ecosystems supporting active research and teaching in the field sciences and in the sound stewardship of natural resources....Users will find it easy to apply for reserve use, to obtain information they need to develop proposals and conduct research, and to have access to needed reserve facilities and personnel. The reserve system will act as a cohesive system, and collaborative projects, information, and management efforts will be shared across reserves. Reserves will be actively used for educational field trips by universities, colleges, K-12 classes, adult education courses, and community organizations, and high-quality UC field courses will be taught entirely at the reserves. The reserves will become foci for public service activities, including lecture series and public courses, and will be highly valued by surrounding communities. Scott D. Cooper, Director UCSB NRS.
2.0 Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve
During formation of the NRS and early consideration of sites for potential reserves, Kenneth S. Norris, then a Professor of Zoology at UC Santa Cruz and co-founder of the NRS, identified Carpinteria Salt Marsh as an important coastal wetland system that was already used as a study area for students at UCSB. The estuary was also among those sites suggested by Carl L. Hubbs, Professor of Biology at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, as having a long range potential for acquisition by the University of California. Furthermore, in correspondence with the California Department of Fish and Game in 1967, Dr. Norris expressed hope that the University might obtain ownership of Carpinteria Salt Marsh and that mutually useful plans for the area might be developed by both agencies. The California Department of Fish and Game also was interested at that time in acquiring the estuary to made it a State Ecological Reserve.
An informal survey of UCSB biologists in 1969 resulted in a vigorous affirmation of the great value of the salt marsh as an outdoor laboratory for students. By December of that year, Robert Haller, then an Associate Professor of Botany at UCSB, had prepared a proposal for a natural reserve at "Sandyland Marsh". Dr. Haller emphasized that,
The marsh of Sandyland is one of the few remaining salt water marshes along the coast of southern California; its scientific value is especially great because of its relatively undisturbed condition. The marsh supports many species of plants and animals that occur in no other habitat. The Sandyland Marsh has been used for many years as an observation and research area by naturalists and scientists... This kind of use would continue, and, in our opinion, would be enhanced by bringing the marsh into the University's [Natural Reserve System], since the system was established specifically to preserve the long-term natural values of the lands under its jurisdiction.
The Sandyland Cove Trust, originally a consortium of 10 home owners at Sandyland Cove, owned a portion of the estuary and was willing to sell the property to the University at a price significantly below the market value. They also had an offer by a developer who wanted to turn the wetland into a marina. The Regents allocated $100,000 in 1970 to match an equal amount provided by a grant from The Ford Foundation, and this total sum was offered for the purchase of 120 acres. The balance of the appraised values of the property represented a gift to the University by the Sandyland Cove Trust. Following various delays in negotiations, the acquisition of the 120 acres by the University occurred in June 1977. The Sandyland Cove Trust retained ownership of the remaining wetlands eastward to the Carpinteria city limit and a small buffer area between the Main Channel and Sandyland Cove.
During the nearly twenty years since the establishment of Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, numerous research projects have focused on a variety of biological and physical aspects of the ecosystem. For example, during the 1995-96 academic year, 101 researchers and assistants spent 520 user days at CSMR. Recent studies include, but are not limited to, demography of clams; trematode worm parasite life cycles and effects on host organisms; plant pollination, zonation, competition, facilitation, and host specificity; fish distribution, recruitment, and competition; behavior of endangered birds; and nutrient cycling and monitoring of toxicants. These studies have been published in some of the most important journals of the various disciplines (see Appendix A, CSMR Bibliography), resulting in a broad appreciation for the natural resources Carpinteria Salt Marsh and for the research opportunities provided by CSMR. Refer to Part II, 6.0 Research Program, for additional information of research goals and activities at CSMR.
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve also has provided many educational opportunities for university and college students. For example, during the 1995-96 academic year along, 185 visitors for instructional purposes spent 197 user days at CSMR. University-level educational use included classes in plant ecology, marine micropaleontology, and the biology of the marine-land interface. College use included classes from UCSB, Santa Barbara City College, Westmont College, Antioch College, and Ventura Community College.
In addition to the various university and college-level educational opportunities associated with CSMR, other public service and educational activities include use of the Reserve for field trips and lectures by the Reserve Manager for many non-profit organizations such as the California Native Plant Society, the National Audubon Society, the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County, and various local homeowners' associations and civic groups. For example, during the 1995-96 academic year, 450 public service visitors spent 634 user days at CSMR. K-12 use included class visits from public schools such as Aliso and Washington elementary, and Carpinteria High Schools, and from private schools such as Cate and Crane Schools. Adult education has included field trips and classes associated with Santa Barbara Botanic Garden, Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, and the Santa Barbara Adult Education Program.
Resource stewardship is another important component of the NRS mission. The University has provided leadership in the protection, understanding, and management of the sensitive wetland resources supported by Carpinteria Salt Marsh. In addition to this role, the NRS has assisted in the coordination of a complex layering of various federal, state, county, city, and university agencies, departments, consultants, and policies. A major step in the coordination of these entities is the preparation of the Management Plan for Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, provided in Part II of this document.
Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve has matured during its nearly 20 year history to become a productive UC-based field site with diverse programs and functions. Information obtained through its inventory, research, and monitoring programs is vital to the formation of a comprehensive, ecosystem-wide management plan that will guide the future protection, restoration, and use of Carpinteria Salt Marsh and Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve.
In this Plan, the term estuary, refers generally to the Carpinteria Salt Marsh, which is also known as El Estero and El Estero de la Carpinteria. Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve, or the Reserve, refers to parcels owned and/or managed by University of California's Natural Reserve System. Refer to the Glossary (Appendix H) for more detailed definitions of these terms.
3.0 Carpinteria Salt Marsh Property Owners
Carpinteria Salt Marsh covers approximately 230 acres that are fragmented into 35 parcels of land which are owned by approximately 17 different individuals or entities (Fig. 4). As of March 1997, only two of these parcels, which comprise over half the acreage of the Marsh, are owned by the University of California and are included in CSMR. The remaining parcels can be grouped among the following types of owners: private individual; private association; private corporate; trusts; County of Santa Barbara; and City of Carpinteria. Cooperation among all of these owners is essential for the successful development and implementation of a reserve management plan. Ideally, a management plan for the estuary should contain goals, policies, and actions that cover all parcels of land that support wetland and adjacent upland habitats with relevant coastal resources. Thus direct participants in the formation of the Plan should be, at a minimum, the owners of the 35 parcels. However, as many as 45 entities have been identified that own, regulate, or advise on the regulation of the coastal resources at Carpinteria Salt Marsh and its related watershed. A detailed discussion of many of these entities is provided below in I-D, Regulatory and Advisory Agencies and Public Interest Groups.
4.0 Purpose of the Management Plan
The Management Plan for Carpinteria Salt Marsh Reserve is a comprehensive, ecosystem-wide planning document that has been funded by the University of California and by the California State Coastal Conservancy through a grant to the UCSB Marine Science Institute and the UCSB Museum of Systematics and Ecology within the Department of Ecology, Evolution, and Marine Biology. Such management plans are now required for all UC reserves. The Coastal Conservancy contract has been managed by the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County as part of the funding for the Carpinteria Salt Marsh Restoration Project, Phase I - Ash Avenue Wetland Area. The contract team included the Reserve Manager, a reserve research biologist, a professional planner, and a GIS consultant and cartographer. Other important contributions were made by the CSMR Faculty Manager, a student cartographic assistant, and a bibliographic database consultant; by NRS staff within the UC Office of the President; by the Carpinteria Salt Marsh representative of the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County; and by members of the Carpinteria Marsh/Park Steering Committee.
The general purpose of the Management Plan is to provide a mechanism for the integration, under one management structure, of the protection, management, and use of Carpinteria Salt Marsh and its biological and physical resources at an ecosystem level rather than a parcel level. To this end, 20 programs have been identified and organized into (1) administrative, (2) research, education, and public service, and (3) interagency categories. Each program includes goals, policies, and actions relevant to the specifics of the programmatic focus. Program priorities and phasing, and an approval and amendment process, are provided to help guide the implementation of the Plan.