For decades, nonnative animals have ravaged the rare habitat on Catalina. The proposed solution has infuriated local residents and animal lovers.
WHY WE’RE HERE
We’re exploring how America defines itself one place at a time. On a California island, residents and preservationists are feuding over how to protect the habitat for future generations.
By Soumya Karlamangla
Soumya Karlamangla and Sinna Nasseri recently spent days on Catalina talking to residents and exploring the island by foot, car, boat and golf cart.
Dec. 2, 2023
Santa Catalina Island is the crown jewel of the Channel Islands, an archipelago off the coast of Southern California that is so biodiverse it is often called “North America’s Galápagos.”
A rugged mountain jutting out of the sea, Catalina, as it is commonly known, is home to more than 60 plants and critters found nowhere else on earth. Plump quails and miniature foxes unique to the island scurry across the dirt roads that wind through scrubby hillsides. Thick pillows of fog roll onshore and coat the leaves of rare plants with dew. Bald eagles swoop far above the glittering Pacific.
But the habitat is suffering because much of the native flora has been ravaged by animals shipped here over the past century for ranching, hunting and filming movies.