STATE PARKS FOOD STORAGE LOCKERS: SCMBC Steps in to Protect an Endangered Seabird

SUMMER, 2012 — The Santa Cruz Mountains Bioregional Council (SCMBC) recently collaborated with State Parks and California Department of Fish and Game and wrote a check for $180,000.00 to purchase and install 298 steel food storage lockers at Big Basin Redwoods State Park, Butano State Park, and San Mateo County Memorial Park.  These lockers are a key component in protecting critically important wildlife habitat in our region, and we are glad that SCMBC was able to help make this project a reality.  

The Marbled Murrelet, a small seabird that is federally-listed as Threatened and state-listed as Endangered, is highly selective in its breeding requirements, depending on suitable nesting platforms that are found in the canopies of old-growth trees near the coast.  The old-growth redwoods in these parks provide some of the best remaining habitat for the murrelet. Unforturtunately, human food scraps in and around park campsites and along trails attract Common Ravens and Steller's Jays, significant predators on murrelet eggs and nestlings. State Parks managers have engaged in an intensive program for almost a decade to control the food scrap problem in Big Basin Redwoods and Butano State Parks. They replaced all the garbage containers and developed park education programs aimed at reducing human food supplies for jays and ravens, but these solutions were only partially effective.

SCMBC board member and State Parks resource ecologist Portia Halbert identified an opportunity to equip campsites at three different parks with steel food storage lockers.   With locking doors specially designed to keep animals out, these lockers are easy to use; large enough to store food, coolers, and containers; and encourage campers to keep scraps under control, significantly reducing scavenging by ravens and jays.

Halbert turned to a potential funding source for the lockers:  a $22 million settlement from litigation of two oil spills off the coast of central California, the Command and the Luckenbach spills.  These spills impacted the Marbled Murrelet and other seabirds, and the settlement is intended to fund habitat restoration projects to benefit these affected species.

With the funding identified, Halbert turned to SCMBC and California Fish and Game for assistance in procuring the best quality product for the best possible price.  SCMBC's participation was key in moving the transaction forward.  Halbert oversaw the installation by American Conservation Experience (ACE) and inmates from the Ben Lomond Camp. Crews were supervised and supported by State Parks Resource Crew.  The installation was completed in spring, 2012, and the lockers are now in use.

Halbert says the food lockers have already had a positive outcome.  “It’s amazing how neat and tidy people are with their food now, compared to how common it was to see food and garbage strewn about campsites before the lockers were installed.”