10 April 2008

Partnership to Enhance Wetlands in California's Central Valley

A $1 million federal grant was awarded to the California Waterfowl Association for wetland and riparian habitat work that will continue efforts underway for the last four years to conserve wetland habitat in the North Sacramento River valley.

The North Sacramento Valley Wetland Habitat Project, Phase II was funded in March of 2008.

About 1,559 acres of wetlands and associated upland habitats will be will be restored, and another 3,398 acres enhanced with funding provided by the North American Wetlands Conservation Act, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and private landowners. In total, $1.8 million will be used to improve habitat management capabilities and increase overall habitat acreage through this two year grant.

"California Waterfowl has been working for more than 20 years to restore the state's wetlands and this grant continues with our extensive conservation efforts in the north Sacramento Valley," said Chadd Santerre, senior biologist and project supervisor with California Waterfowl. "By increasing and improving overall habitat conditions for all species that rely on wetland and riparian habitats this grant and the partners involved are making a difference for all wildlife."

[Spring brood ponds in California]

Spring brood ponds. All pictures courtesy of Chadd Santerre, California Waterfowl Association.

[Waterfowl at a California wetland]

Wetland waterfowl.

"Restoration and enhancement projects on both private and public lands will provide protection, expansion and improvements to a diversity of habitats that will benefit NAWCA designated priority species such as six "high priority waterfowl species," seven "other priority waterfowl species" and sixteen "other waterfowl species," according to the project summary for the federal grant. Also additional benefits will include "numerous NAWCA priority birds and hundreds of wetland associated fish and wildlife will benefit overall as a result of completed projects.

"In addition, eight federal and state listed species will benefit. When completed, shallow seasonal and semi-permanent wetlands and the associated uplands will provide long-term management capabilities and improved foraging opportunities."

“The greatest benefits to bird species will come from those that are most dependent upon wetland and riparian habitats," said Santerre. "This would include all waterfowl and shorebirds which breed within and migrate through the region throughout the year. Additional benefits will come to those raptor species which depend up those species as prey as well as a host of neotropical migrants. Highlighted species that will receive direct benefits from projects will include Tricolored Blackbirds, White-faced Ibis and the western Yellow-billed Cuckoo.“

The "proposal covers an area that has been described by the Central Valley Joint Venture as the "most important wintering area for waterfowl in the Pacific Flyway. It is estimated that 60% of the Pacific Flyway's waterfowl population (excluding seaducks), representing 20% of the entire continental waterfowl population, either winters or migrates through the Central Valley of California."

[Cinnamon Teal]

Cinnamon Teal at a wetland.


Mallards at a wetland.

A variety of conservation measures will be used to achieve the project goals.

"Twenty-four restoration and enhancement projects on 20 private, two federal and two state owned properties, will be completed by de-leveling agricultural fields, constructing new levees, installing water control structures, improving water delivery systems, developing new water sources, rehabilitating degraded wetlands, planting of riparian trees and the seeding of upland areas."

"All of the 24 projects fall within four of the nine Central Valley Joint Venture watershed basins or focus areas, including the American, Butte, Colusa, and Sutter Basins." The project "will contribute directly and immediately to these focus areas by restoring and enhancing 4,957 acres of emergent wetlands, forested wetlands and associated upland habitats."

"This proposal is unique in its combination of federal agencies, state agencies, a non-profit organization and 20 private properties (fourteen are new to NAWCA), encompassing four of the nine priority basins within the Central Valley Joint Venture" program, according to the FWS information. "The partnerships that have been established within the Phase I and Phase II grants have been very successful in accomplishing habitat goals and milestones." Major contributing partners include the 20 private landowners themselves and the California Wildlife Conservation Board.

Efforts of the partnership will help to offset "current threats to wetland values in the project area from an increasing human population, urban development, agriculture, and watershed and drainage encroachment," according to the FWS project summary. "Natural wetlands in California have declined by over 90% from an estimated five million acres historically, to less than 450,000 acres at the present time."

The public benefits identified, by the grant proposal are: "projects that are taking place on DFG and FWS properties are open to the public year-round to provide outdoor recreation such as hiking, birding, hunting, fishing and research opportunities. Private land projects are improving a significant resource to wildlife that will help to maintain and increase populations throughout the year. Improved habitat conditions will be maintained by the landowners for the long term. These improvements will benefit not only wildlife populations but those people who like to partake in outdoor recreational activities involving wildlife. Increased wildlife use of these projects may ultimately lead to improved opportunities for the public to experience wildlife throughout the Pacific Flyway."

Work on the project will begin in the spring of 2008 and will continue through the end of 2009.

During the past twenty years, California Waterfowl has actively conserved more than 300,000 acres of wildlife habitat, and educated more than 250,000 children of the values and importance of natural places. The group received the Conservationist of the Year award in 2006 from The Wildlife Society.

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