Ventura - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today recognized eight individuals from the National Park Service, The Nature Conservancy, and the Institute for Wildlife Studies as 2015 Recovery Champions for their exceptional efforts to conserve and protect three subspecies of fox on the northern Channel Islands, which are currently proposed for delisting under the Endangered Species Act. The Recovery Champion award honors partners for outstanding successes in recovering threatened and endangered wildlife across the nation.
“Each of these individuals, and the organizations they represent, set a vision to bring these island fox subspecies back from the brink of extinction,” said Steve Henry, field supervisor of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Ventura. “And because of that steadfast vision, island foxes on San Miguel, Santa Rosa and Santa Cruz Islands are now proposed for delisting, marking the fastest recovery of any mammal under ESA protections.”
Among the award winners honored for their work include David Garcelon of the Institute for Wildlife Studies, Lotus Vermeer, Christina Boser, Eamon O’Byrne, and Scott Morrison of The Nature Conservancy, and Tim Coonan, Kate Faulkner, and Russell Galipeau of Channel Islands National Park.
In the late 1990s, island fox subspecies on the northern Channel Islands experienced precipitous declines as a result of predation by non-native golden eagles. Thanks to intensive multi-partner recovery efforts including captive breeding, habitat restoration, predator/prey management, vaccinating against disease, and ongoing monitoring, these island fox subspecies have recovered to self-sustaining levels.
These partners have worked together to maintain a consistent vision of what is needed to achieve recovery of these subspecies and the results of their contributions filled critical gaps in the community of scientific knowledge, helping to secure the subspecies’ long-term viability and protection.
For more information about 2015 Recovery Champions from across the nation, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/what-we-do/recovery-champions/index.html.
David Garcelon is President of the Institute for Wildlife Studies, a non-profit organization dedicated to maintaining biodiversity and enhancing our understanding of the animals with which we share our world.
For several decades, David has been involved with island fox and ecosystem health on six Channel Islands. With David’s resolute leadership, his contributions to island fox biology and restoration efforts on the Channel Islands spans from island fox monitoring, involvement with removal efforts of nonnative species, and the reintroduction of bald eagles. Additionally, with his team of biologists and veterinarians from the Institute for Wildlife Studies, they not only guided captive breeding efforts for island foxes – an effort never before undertaken - but also monitored remaining wild fox populations throughout the captive breeding effort and remains involved today.
Dr. Scott Morrison
Dr. Scott Morrison is the Director of Science for the California Chapter of The Nature Conservancy and over his 15 year career with TNC has led the science of various Channel Island conservation programs.
Scott spearheaded the scientific collaborations that developed robust monitoring protocols for the island fox, led and participated in various technical expertise groups and analyses under the auspices of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Recovery Coordination Group, and developed the scientific underpinnings of the strategy to eradicate feral pigs on Santa Cruz Island.
Dr. Lotus Vermeer
Dr. Lotus Vermeer came to The Nature Conservancy in 2003 as director of its Santa Cruz Island Preserve and Channel Islands Program, where she helped set a new standard for the management of complex, multi-partner conservation programs.
Dr. Lotus Vermeer led the successful island restoration and endangered species recovery efforts for the Conservancy’s Santa Cruz Island and Channel Islands Program from 2003 to 2012.
Christina Boser is a California Islands Ecologist with the Nature Conservancy, and has worked on the Islands since 2006 as a fox technician, fox program lead, biosecurity manager, and invasive ant researcher. She is currently devoted to structuring institutional guidelines which acknowledge the conservation-reliant status of many islands species and outline steps to appropriately manage these species.
Christina Boser released many of the Santa Cruz Island foxes back to the wild in 2006 and has tracked those foxes as they live out their lives on the island.
Eamon O’Byrne leads the Chapter’s conservation partnership work on California’s offshore islands, and oversees TNC’s ecological restoration and recovery programs on its Santa Cruz Island Preserve. O’Byrne joined TNC as Associate Director of Operations 2008, and took up his current role in August of 2013.
Having achieved the major objectives of the island’s recovery project, Lotus Vermeer handed over the reins to Eamon in 2013. The California Islands program will continue its monitoring and vaccination program on Santa Cruz Island, to reduce the risk of ever seeing the fox population pushed to the brink again.
For more than two decades, Tim Coonan represented the Park Service on all facets of island fox recovery. Even before the foxes were listed as endangered, Tim engaged members of the scientific community across agencies and organizations to put into motion recovery planning efforts.
Tim oversaw captive breeding efforts and eagle management activities, and played an instrumental role in the development of the Island Fox Recovery Plan. Tim’s long history with island fox recovery spanned from the time of their decline in the late 1990’s to early 2000s, to just this past year as we celebrated the release of the final recovery plan and proposed delisting. Tim is recently retired from the National Park, and we thank him for his career-long dedication to island fox recovery. Even in his retirement, Tim continues to lead the multi-agency Island Fox Conservation Working Group.
Kate Faulkner joined the Channel Islands National Park in 1990 to become chief of the park’s Natural Resources program. She faced many challenges in dealing with the legacy of grazing, DDT, and other degradations on the islands, however, her remarkable ability to work with research scientists, superintendents, and others, in often contentious policy arenas, resulted in some of the most outstanding examples of resource management successes in the National Park Service.
Under Kate’s natural resource leadership, the park took aggressive efforts to recover natural systems at Channel Islands based on good science and well-planned partnerships, which were key to their success. By working closely with other park programs, including inventory and monitoring and interpretation efforts, Kate’s work ethic and guidance has become a model for effective leadership and management across the agency. Kate has also since retired from the National Park and we are very thankful for her role in the restoration of the Channel Islands.
Russell Galipeau joined the Channel Islands National Park as superintendent in 2003, in the midst of the decline and recovery effort for island foxes. He brought with him a sincere desire to protect cultural and natural resources and a strong belief in community outreach. Through Russell’s leadership, the park has become a pillar in the community by building strong partnerships that are dedicated to resource protection, tourism and education.
An advocate for island fox recovery efforts from the early days of island fox recovery planning, Russell has brought island fox conservation and island ecosystem restoration to the forefront of natural resource issues and challenges in the National Park Service and beyond.