San Clemente Island demands balance between Navy training, environment

Island on road to recovery

SAN CLEMENTE ISLAND, Calif. - Seventy-five miles from San Diego, San Clemente Island is the U.S. Navy's premier training area for offshore bombing but is also an environmental wonder.

"This is unique among the Channel Islands in that there are 15 plants that are found nowhere else in the world," said Bryan Munson, a botanist on staff for the Navy on the island.

Balancing both the training needs and environmental needs is mutually beneficial.

"There is a huge buffer area between where the training takes place, and that's where wildlife is thriving," said Melissa Booker, a biologist for the Navy on the island.

There are a number of endangered animals and plant species that are making a comeback after the Navy purged the island of goats.

"That's the major story when it comes to the island's recovery," Munson said.

The goats, brought to the island by ranchers decades ago, devastated the plant population, which in turn negatively affected animal habitats.

The goats have been gone for 20 years and environmentally speaking, the island is making a comeback, which in turn allows more training.

"Because it keeps us from having more issues with more endangered species," Booker said.


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