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Bring Back the Streams! One Stream at a Time…



We are a non-profit organization who have dedicated ourselves as stewards of the Santa Monica Mountains. We are caretakers of the land, preserving its natural beauty for future generations.It’s a daunting task for sure. The eco-system seems so fragile. How can it survive the assaults of pollution, invasive species, development, and climate change?

We won’t pretend to have all the answers, but we seek out and provide opportunities to be part of the solution. We believe in a multi-faceted approach that includes all parties and points of view, working together towards a holistic understanding of the human role in the environment.  


We are proud to have started a wide variety of projects, from land acquisition and trail building to woodland and aquatic restoration. What unites all of these projects are the streams, which run from the tops of the mountains out to the sea.

Streams and creeks are the lifeline of the mountains, like the veins in our body. They nourish the entire organism. They can become riddled with plaque choking the circulation — trash, waste material, invasive species, and other forms of pollution. To have healthy mountains, with vibrant flora and fauna, it is necessary for the water to flow, Native plant species on the banks of these waterways help support local native wildlife, allow for the frogs and the newts to propagate, and for the fish and the birds to reestablish themselves.

By bringing back the streams, we revitalize our native stream ecosystem of the Santa Monica Mountains. One creek, one stream at a time.


Dry Canyon Creek is a success story in our own backyard. Through the hard work of our staff, consultants, volunteers, and generous donors, we have transformed the headwaters of the Los Angeles River from a weed-choked dumping ground to a healthy, vibrant environment.  Along with the regrowth of native plants, indigenous critters are finally moving back home, including frogs.

Frogs are the ecological equivalent of canaries in the mine. All over the planet, their diminishing numbers have been alarm bell warning us of dangers to our environment.

Here in the Santa Monica Mountains, our Bring Back the Streams! campaign plans to intensify existing efforts to rid the creeks of one of the biggest threats — the invasive red swamp crayfish from Louisiana.

Call them crayfish, crawfish, or crawdads, these alien invaders are hazardous to the health of our streams and dangerous for aquatic wildlife populations. They make snacks out of frogs’ eggs and baby newts. While they’re around, amphibians don’t have a chance! They have no natural predators here in Southern California. Unless we step in.

We are the people who use the mountains for recreation, for solitude, for fresh air. We are the people who thrill to see animals in the wild, who photograph the views. We, the people who build our homes close to nature, who study the wild flowers and watch the birds, who shut down our laptops on a Saturday afternoon and take our kids for a hike.

One stream at a time. It is possible, and it can be done.

We are trapping and removing the crayfish, the same way our great-grandfathers in the old days used to do it. One by one, we pull traps from the creeks, manually removing hundreds of thousands of crayfish from the waterways. With our naturalists and biologists, volunteers from local communities go on trapping expeditions in Malibu and Las Virgenes Creeks almost every week, making a huge difference in the native amphibian population.

We intend to expand this effort to include other creeks and streams. Part of that plan includes the acquisition of small parcels of land along Cold Creek and La Sierra Creek where a number of small feeders and tributaries are located. Homebuilders are included in these discussions so that thoughtful consciousness occurs in determining new sites.


…because we can do this. Our plan seems compact in size, but we have our eye on the bigger picture. We are partnering with other conservation groups. We are teaming up with naturalists, educators, city officials, business leaders, and ardent nature lovers. With so many different perspectives and experience levels, we can focus on different strategies for different needs.

As a non-profit organization, we are committed to being transparent and accountable. As a non-governmental organization, we have the flexibility to be innovative in the actions we take to protect our natural environment. In a time when the federal and state governments are pushing fracking on federal lands thinking of selling protected parklands, we are making it our mission to protect the land in perpetuity.

Mark Twain’s favorite amphibian is the “Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County,” a nickname for none other than the once plentiful California Red Legged Frog. With streams and creeks running unimpeded and restored to pre-polluted states, this local legend hops off the endangered species list and returns to the Santa Monica Mountains.

Please join our campaign and help us Bring Back the Streams!

How can you get involved?

Come join us at our Crayfish Removal Open House events, every Saturday from October 7th to December 16th!!  

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It’s a Bird, It’s a Bug… It’s CITIZEN SCIENCE!!!!!!!!!!

iNaturalist is the brainchild of Nate Agrin, Jessica Kline, and Ken-ichi Ueda. They originally came up with the idea for the website during their senior master’s project at UC Berkeley in 2008. A few years later, the California Academy of Sciences became involved, and from there the site and corresponding phone app have blossomed into one of the biggest citizen science research platforms in the country. From hikers and mountain climbers to beach bums and birdwatchers, anyone can be a naturalist. All you have to do is take a photo and upload it for the waiting scientists and researchers in the iNaturalist community! Just like that, you can go from being a normal person to a Citizen Scientist – documenting data one photo at a time.

“If enough people recorded their observations, it would be like a living record of life on Earth that scientists and land managers could use to monitor changes in biodiversity, and that anyone could use to learn more about nature.” Scientists are gathering data every day about what species are living where, tracking population counts and migrations. iNaturalist is a social media platform designed to help researchers gather data in locations they might not normally be able to get to — private property, remote areas, etc. iNaturalist helps to record the biodiversity in areas, the various plant, insect, wildlife forms that exist within particular boundaries. The primary goal of the site, though, is to connect more people with nature and get them outdoors and excited about what could be living in more than just their backyard.

We make observations about the world around us every day, but do we really look at what we’re seeing? We might see a wildflower, and think “that’s pretty”. But did you ever think you could be the one to identify the species of that flower, and give the local science community a data point to add to their research? Snap a photo, upload it to an app, and get an ID on the bug or plant or animal that’s in the photo. Pretty easy, right? If you don’t know what species an insect, plant, or animal photo is when you upload it, don’t worry! Just give the most detail you can and label it as “insect”, “butterfly”, etc., and that will help direct scientists or hobbyist naturalists who are identifying other photos on the site. They’ll help ID it for you, and then that information will get sent to the California Academy of Science.

Anyone with a smartphone or a computer with access to the internet can use iNaturalist! The app for your phone is free on both the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store, just look for the little green bird icon. Download it, and get started on your first photoshoot as a citizen science – there’s a whole world of nature out there to explore!

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Beetle Mania — But Not the Groovy Kind

by Amy  Yuelapwan, Land Restoration Tech

**The beetle shown in the photo above is a full sized adult, with a US penny shown for scale.

The Polyphagous Shot Hole Borer (PSHB) beetle is currently affecting multiple tree species around California. Mountains Restoration Trust (MRT) is monitoring for the PSHB in Calabasas, with the help of the California Resource Conservation District (RCD),. The main species of trees that MRT is monitoring are the Coast Live Oak, Quercus agrifolia, the Valley Oak, Quercus lobata, and the Western Sycamore, Platanus racemosa.

There are test results from University of Riverside that confirm the PSHB beetles found in Calabasas are carrying what’s known as the ‘Fusarium Dieback’ fungal disease. This disease blocks the flow of nutrients through the trees, effectively killing the tree from the inside out.

An impregnated PSHB female travels short distances, from a parent tree to a different tree. When she arrives at a new host tree, she bores in and begins to make galleries, or tunnels, where she will lay her eggs. The offspring are born within the tree and feed on the disease-carrying fungus, Fusarium euwallacea. The life cycle starts all over again when the offspring breed with each other inside the tree and the impregnated females leave to find new tree hosts. This beetle, along with many other types of vectoring beetles (carrying diseases), are closely monitored for their activity because the tree hosts they choose in urban and wild settings are heavily affected. In the worst cases, the trees die completely.

It is a popular theory that the long-experienced drought has severely weakened trees and majorly effects the death of infected trees — so don’t forget to water landscaped trees! The symptoms to look out for are areas of leaf dieback (death of twigs and branches, generally starting at the tips) in the tree canopy, as well as entry/exit holes in the trunk. This is accompanied by discoloration, also called ‘staining.’ There are resources online, but if you suspect that a tree is diseased, MRT and RCD can be contacted for further assistance. RCD also offers citizens the opportunity to monitor their own properties by setting up traps to find potential PSHB beetle activity.


The California Department of Conservation, and the Resource Conservation District can be contacted via the postal service, email, or telephone.

801 K Street, MS 14-15
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: (916) 457-7904



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Wildlife Spotlight: Green Lynx Spider

This week, our staffers found a Green Lynx Spider (peucetia viridans) perched on a lily near our office in Headwaters Corner. She appears to have made her home here, as one of her younglings emerged a few moments after we spotted her.

Typically, these spiders guard their young for 6 to 8 weeks after they hatch, until they are they are big enough to defend themselves from possible predators. This is unusual behavior — most spiders are known to eat their mothers as their first meal, before moving on to their weaker siblings and then other prey. Lynx are active hunters, that stalk their prey and spit venom. They don’t actually spin webs, like most species of spiders do!

These spiders are aptly named for the bright coloring of their body. They move quickly and pounce like cats, making the ‘lynx’ part of its name very accurate. Like cats, they’ll also often sit still for very long periods of time waiting for prey to wander by. They can be found on shrubs , wildflowers, and in tall grasses all throughout the Southern United States, Venezuela, Mexico, and all over Central and South America.

They’re great for controlling pest problems in cotton fields, and soybean or peanut crops. The only downside? They also like to snack on bees and butterflies as well.

Check out the resources below to find out more information about this unique guest here at Headwaters Corner.

  • Hawkinson, Candace. “Green Lynx Spider.” Beneficial Spiders in the Landscape: #48 Green Lynx Spider (Peucetia Viridans), Galveston County Master Gardener Association, 2006, aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/galveston/beneficials/beneficial-48_green_lynx_spider.htm.
  • Regents of the University of California . “Pests in Gardens and Landscapes: Quick Tips.” UC IPM Online, University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources, 11 May 2017, ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/commongardenspiderscard.html.
  • Raines, Ben. “Venom-Spitting Spiders Hatching out All over Alabama Make Great Mothers.” AL.com, 2 Nov. 2015, www.al.com/news/index.ssf/2015/11/venom-spitting_green_lynx_spid.html.
  • Weems, H.V. (Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Division of Plant Industry), and W.H. Whitcomb (University of Florida). “Featured Creatures .” Green Lynx Spider – Peucetia Viridans (Hentz), University of Florida, Publication Date: November 2001. Latest revision: July 2014.


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Crayfish Busting Keeps Creeks Clean in Calabasas

By: Angela De Palma-Dow

Crawling, creeping, and swimming under the surface in some Santa Monica Mountain creeks and streams lurks a red, crunchy and clawed troublemaker.  The red swamp crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) is an invasive species because it does not originate from California.  Like other invasive species, once crayfish became established here, they can cause damage to the environment, the economy, social or public health sectors.  The red swamp crayfish is native to areas of Louisiana, Texas, and Mexico, but have been observed in some Santa Monica Streams since the 1960s1. Red swamp crayfish are particularly harmful to stream ecosystems in southern California because they have no native competitors or predators to keep their population levels in check. There are historically no native crayfish in southern California streams to compete with red swamps for food or living space.  Additionally, in most Santa Monica Mountain streams, there are no longer any large native game fish to prey on these invasive crustaceans.  Without active management and removal of the crayfish, they will continue to cause significant damage to the aquatic resources of Santa Monica Mountain regions. These crayfish negatively affect stream ecosystems by:

  • Consuming both juvenile fish, amphibians and their eggs1,2,3
  • Reducing beneficial aquatic plants by eating them and digging them up2
  • Reducing the density and variety of aquatic insects (which serve as food for fish) by directly consuming them and changing the stream bed habitat which serves as their home2,3
  • Negatively altering water quality when they dig and burrow into sediments and stream banks making the water turbid and less inhabitable by native species3

Since 2010, MRT based in Calabasas, with the help of regional volunteers, have been actively removing invasive crayfish in the Malibu Creek Watershed.   This is very important work not only because the Malibu Creek watershed drains into the Santa Monica Bay, but also because its tributaries are also home to many important native species.  Native fish such as the Arroyo Chub and the southern Steelhead Trout, as well as amphibian species such as Pacific tree frogs and the endangered California Newt have all shown a decline in numbers or have disappeared entirely in creeks where red swamp crayfish are present1. Thanks to the ongoing efforts by MRT to remove crayfish, aquatic habitats have the chance to rebound and once again provide a natural home for our native species.

Want to get involved with MRT’s effort to remove crayfish from Malibu Creek Watershed?

Mountains Restoration Trust has several Crayfish Removal Open House events every month that you can participate alongside restoration professionals helping removing invasive crayfish from Malibu Creek Watershed streams. Check our calendar of events page <https://www.eventbrite.com/o/mountains-restoration-trust-3176893670 >to see what opportunities are coming up.  Do you belong to a group or organization that wants to support MRT and our invasive species removal efforts?  Contact our volunteer coordinator at volunteer@mountainstrust.org.

1. Red swamp crayfish can be identified by their typical red coloration and red dots on their claws and carapace (body).







2. While most are bright red, not all red swamp crayfish are red like their name indicates. Females or immature males can be brown or tan in color, but all red swamp crayfish will have raised dots along their claws and carapace (body).






Sources cited in this text:

  1. Milligan, W.R., Jones, M.T., L.B. Katz, T.A. Lucas, and C.L. Davis. 2017. Predicting the effects of manual crayfish removal on California newt persistence in Santa Monica Mountain Streams. Ecological Modeling 352: 139-151.
  2. Lodge, D. M., C. Taylor, D. Holdich, and J. Skurdal. 2000. Nonindigenous crayfishes threaten North American freshwater biodiversity: lessons from Europe. Fisheries 25(8):7–19.
  3. Klose, K and S. D, Cooper. 2012. Contrasting effects of an invasive crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) on two temperate stream communities. Freshwater Biology 57:526-540.
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Cloud Forest Restoration Event on Santa Rosa Island

This past week, MRT vegetation crew members, MRT executive director, and volunteers provided a few more hands to assist Research Ecologist Dr. Kathryn McEachern of the US Geological Survey on a restoration project on Santa Rosa Island. The restoration site, often referred to as as the Cloud Forest, is home to specialized species of trees and chaparral shrubs that collect fog on their surfaces in order to provide water for the whole island ecosystem. Sadly, this beautiful forest has been in critical condition from a long history of overgrazing and erosion that began in the mid-1800s. Since the introduction of non-native species around that time, like sheep and cattle, close to 75% of the island’s native vegetation has disappeared. This particular area suffered from intense erosion which has left the roots of many of the native fog collecting trees exposed. With all of the vegetation in such a vulnerable state, the complex system that supports the Cloud Forest has fallen apart. In order to correct this, Dr. McEachern, has been working to initiate ecosystem recovery by setting up natural fiber wattles to control erosion, as well as collecting and growing native plants around the forest. The MRT team is assisting with these efforts by planting native trees and setting up fog fences to aid with the natural water collection. Here are some of the photos from last week’s restoration event 🙂




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What Types of Species Do We Have in the Santa Monica Mountains?


We are so lucky to have a rich community of flora and fauna here in the Santa Monica Mountains.  Ever wondered just how many species we have?  Take a look at this list!

  • Mammals : 50 Species
  • Birds : 400 Species
  • Amphibians : 35 Species
  • Vertebrates : 450 Species
  • Reptiles : 25 Species
  • Special Amphibians : 5 Salamander Species, 6 Frog and Toad Species (2 are introduced)

Rare or in decline species:

  • Two-striped garter snake
  • Coastal western whip-tailed lizard
  • San Diego mountain king snake
  • Legless lizards
  • Western pond turtle – extremely rare

These animals are found in 12 Santa Monica Mountains natural communities and 26 different vegetation types.

Thanks to nps.gov/samo for the information!

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