One of the Department's greatest challenges in protecting and managing the natural heritage values in the State Park System is controlling damaging exotic plant species. Non-native invasive plants pose a serious threat to native ecosystems. Because of the relatively mild climate throughout much of the state, many of our parklands provide conditions suitable for invasion by exotic plants from other continents. Whether introduced unknowingly by pioneers 200 years ago, or more recently by worldwide commerce and travel, the spread of invasive alien plants into State Park System lands is reaching crisis levels. Among the worst invaders presently known are: yellow starthistle, tamarisk, Cape and English ivy, eucalyptus, pampas grass, non-native thistles, tree of heaven, French and Scotch broom, European beachgrass, and ice plant. Without the natural enemies of their original habitats, invasive exotic species can spread rapidly and out-compete California native species, thereby, upsetting natural ecosystem processes.
Resource management policies for the State Park System direct the Department to preserve and restore indigenous plants and animals, while systematically removing populations of exotics in wildland settings. Using a variety of methods and often a helping hand from volunteer organizations, the Department strives to protect our sensitive species and preserve for the present and future generations examples of the unique and diverse ecosystems that make up the rich natural history of this state.