THE CHANNEL ISLANDS: THIRTY YEARS OF RESTORATION
Katie Roney Faulkner ( BS, 75 )
Chief of National Resources Management (Retired), Channel Islands National Park, U.S. National Park Service
Using a Silva Compass to map Camp Filbert Roth in the summer of 1974.
Look for opportunities to get in on the bottom rung of, or even volunteer for, an organization that you want to work for. If you impress others, they will work to promote you to higher levels of responsibility.
From her first role as a seasonal park ranger, Kate Roney Faulkner spent the bulk of her lengthy National Park Service (NPS) career — 27 of a total 36 years served — as chief of natural resources management for Channel Islands National Park off the coast of southern California. But her love for the NPS began much earlier, during a high school trip to Isle Royale National Park in Lake Superior.
“I had never been to a national park before,” Faulkner said. “The experience was transformative for me and I decided that I wanted to work for the National Park Service. I changed my college major from Spanish to natural resources, and the rest is history.”
Her biggest challenges on the Channel Islands: removing non-native animals that had greatly degraded the habitat for rare and endemic species, improving management of marine fisheries, and reestablishing extirpated plants and animals.
Faulkner led NPS collaboration with governmental agencies, NGOs, and university scientists to address these issues, and the islands are now recovering in many ways. Non-native pigs, sheep, elk, deer, cows, and rats were eliminated. Bald eagles were reestablished. Island foxes were brought back from the brink of extinction. Island endemic plants, such as the Island Oak and Torrey pine, are successfully recruiting saplings for the first time in over 100 years.
Her work even helped bring three subspecies of island fox back from the brink of extinction, for which she was named a 2015 Recovery Champion by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today, these island foxes are fully delisted under the Endangered Species Act. Faulkner also won the 2009 George Wright Society Natural Resource Achievement Award for her leadership, in partnership with the Nature Conservancy, to ecologically restore Santa Cruz Island.
However, she said, “New challenges, such as climate change and worldwide habitat degradation, will confront the scientists and land managers of the next generation.”
Faulkner’s first post-retirement accomplishment was cycling from Seattle to Washington D.C. to participate in the celebration of the 2016 centennial of — what else? — the NPS on the National Mall. The bike ride, undertaken with her husband and friends, took 60 days.
“It was a great way to deal with some of the angst of retiring after so many good years with the NPS,” she said.
Since returning to her home in California, Faulkner has been active in bicycle advocacy, land use management issues, and support of local progressive candidates and issues.
You can find out more about her work to eliminate rats from Anacapa Island here, and in this video. You can also watch this video to learn more about her work to conserve the ecosystem of Santa Cruz Island.