Impossible Only Until We Start

Bob Byrnes (in the blue shirt) worked upstream. Yes, it is really that tall and dense but only for a couple miles. Over two seasons half is gone.  Photo by Heidi Acosta.

By Arne Johansen, Co-Chairperson Habitat Restoration 

There is an old saying: 'The difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer.' I was reminded of this as I described our current work area to a new volunteer. From where we were standing (surrounded by eucalyptus, Arundo and palms) I explained how our project area extends two miles downstream and another mile upstream. Then I pointed east and added that our project extends three miles along that side creek. Out loud it just seems impossibly large.

Additionally, it also seems that the more we get done the more there is left to do. This happens in multiple ways. First, our success with one project acts as a snowball rolling downhill. So we added two new pieces to our project area this season. While more work, this allows us to manage the watershed cohesively. It also adds to our ability to stay flexible and respond to circumstances. But it just seems like so much more and there is also work which begets more work.

This winter we concentrated our activities on one mile of the San Dieguito River. This is a joint project with USFW, the San Dieguito River Conservancy, many private property owners, and us, in conjunction with the local fire department. Through our joint efforts we have been able to bring in additional resources in the form of ACE (American Conservation Experience) to help with biomass removal, which lessens fire risk – a huge plus. 

With their help we have mowed most of the Arundo in about a half mile. Of course, that leaves our group with the follow-up. We treat Arundo as it grows back to about 2-3 feet in order to kill the roots. In addition, we exposed many other weeds (acacia, palms, pampas grass, eucalyptus) as the Arundo was removed. All pluses to be dealt with in due course.

The grant that provided for the ACE workers also mandated that we plant. So we planted 850 native riparian plants in spaces created by weeding. Planting alone is enough added work. Deciding which species and actually finding appropriate plants amounts to another project. Fortunately we have many knowledgeable resources within CNPS and with our partners, 'We get by with a little help from our friends.'

Nature gives us more to do as well. In February we were literally inundated. Access to our top priority target areas was flooded. So we adjusted and worked where we could. The torrents did also open things up exposing more mature weeds and stimulated seeds to germinate. There were only about a bazillion eucalyptus seedlings that came up. Yet these are more positives taking us nearer to our ultimate goals.

Admittedly, things seem daunting at times. That is when it is time to take a breath and assess priorities. There will still be just as much to do, but instead of looking at everything, each day we choose from a few top priorities. By staying focused and organized we keep moving forward. Each contribution gets us closer to the finish and by partnering with others we multiply our efforts and accomplishments – truly positive. 

By the time you read this we will be back at Lusardi Creek carrying out another seemingly impossible task. We are removing millions of artichoke plants from hundreds of acres while also weeding three miles of riparian corridor. Yes impossible, but only until we start. 

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