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Vandenberg helps give ecosystem back to Pillar Point

PILLAR POINT, Calif.-- A Volunteer works to remove invasive vegetaion at Vandenberg's most northern site on Oct. 28. The project was headed by the 30th Civil Engineering Squadron to help maintain the environment. (Air Force photo / Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

PILLAR POINT, Calif.-- A Volunteer works to remove invasive vegetaion at Vandenberg's most northern site on Oct. 28. The project was headed by the 30th Civil Engineering Squadron to help maintain the environment. (Air Force photo / Senior Airman Christopher Hubenthal)

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Members of the 30th Civil Engineer Squadron's natural resources team began a project to remove invasive plants from Pillar Point Air Station near Half Moon Bay, Calif., on Oct. 28.

Along with civilian volunteers, natural resources personnel recognized National Public Lands Day by manually removing pampas grass, a plant that is not native to the area and is harming the local ecosystem.

"(The project) is broken down into quite a few components," said Liz Bell, 30th CES natural resources biologist. "The first part is addressing the pampas grass removal. We're also collecting some seeds from the native plants and in a follow-up project (a contractor will) propagate those seeds and plant them."

Throughout the day, the volunteers used shovels, axes and other tools to remove the tall pampas grass, leaving the cuttings in place to act as natural mulch and reduce erosion. Other volunteers hiked throughout the area with white canvas bags collecting seeds from plants based on a list provided by 30th CES. While it was hard work in the cold wind, the volunteers said they were glad to be a part of the project.

"Cliff Bar and Company is committed to protecting the places we play," said Ricardo Balazs, co-chair of the Cliff Bar and Company community service program. "And given that there is a famous surf playground right over this hill (Mavericks), it is important for us to come out here and give back."

Through their volunteerism and the work of the 30th CES natural resources team, this project, which is part of an invasive species management plan created in 2000, is now in full swing. The project planner, Luanne Lum, said it's great to see their plans coming to life.

"Pampas grass actually creates a monoculture that is competition for the native plants and, consequently, for the native wildlife," said Ms. Lum, a 30th CES natural resources botanist. "It feels good to have (the native) habitat coming back."

Follow-up activities in subsequent years will include a combination of herbicide treatment and manual removal to effectively remove the pampas grass. Removal of other invasive species on the property, such as Spanish broom, is also planned.

Taking care of the environment is important, but so is going out and enjoying it, Mrs. Bell said.

"If we're able to allow people access to an area for recreational opportunities, and it doesn't affect the mission or the natural resources, then we want to encourage people to use these lands when at all possible," she said. "So any time that people can enjoy open spaces and learn about the environment, it's a great thing."

The pampas grass removal at Pillar Point is just one of many on-going projects for the natural resources flight. The 30th CES is also working on a restoration project at San Antonio Creek, and the Audubon Society is restoring bird viewing areas. There are also opportunities for people interested in tours provided by the natural resources team. For more information on tour opportunities, people should contact the Outdoor Recreation office at 606-5908.