Joint Release of Federal Recovery Plan for Salmon and Steelhead and Conservation Strategy for California’s Ecosystem Restoration Program

noaa cdfw logos

SACRAMENO, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.“

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward–through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short range and long range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels.Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery. The department has also recently released a restoration grant solicitation which includes salmon and steelhead watersheds in the Central Valley. The solicitation can be found here. Applications are being accepted until August 12, 2014.

More on the NOAA Fisheries Recovery Plan and the CDFW Ecosystem Restoration Program

Contact:
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

Wildlife Conservation Board funds environmental improvement and acquisition projects

lush, green riparian habitat on a far northern California creek

Strawberry Creek in Humboldt County. WCB photo

dry-looking pebble plain habitat with green forest in background

Sawmill Pebble Plain in San Bernardino County. WCB photo

large northern California cree with both grassy and rocky shoreline surrounded by trees and brush

Cow Creek Conservation Area near Redding. WCB photo

Marshy wetland with yellow wildflowers near Richmond

Wetland habitat in Breuner Marsh, at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline. WCB photo

Dry, rolling hill with few trees behind flat land with mostly dry grass.

Blue Oak Ranch Reserve in Santa Clara County. WCB photo

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

At its Feb. 20 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $14 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 16 funded projects will provide benefits to fish and wildlife – including some endangered species – while others will provide the public with access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, land owners and the local community. The funds for all these projects come from bond initiatives approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources. Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $253,000 grant to the Pacific Coast Fish, Wildlife and Wetlands Association for a cooperative project with Redwood National Park and the Fisheries Restoration Grant Program to restore approximately 1,600 linear feet of riparian habitat for Coho salmon and steelhead trout on Strawberry Creek, approximately 1.5 miles west of Orick in Humboldt County.
  • A $650,000 grant to the Shasta Land Trust (SLT) to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 600 acres of land to protect rangeland, riparian, floodplain and riverine habitat and provide habitat connectivity with the adjoining protected lands referred to as the Cow Creek Conservation Area, north of State Highway 44, about 10 miles east of the City of Redding in Shasta County.
  • A $1 million grant to the East Bay Regional Park District for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy and others to restore approximately 164 acres of wetland habitat in Breuner Marsh, at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline, five miles north of the city of Richmond in Contra Costa County.
  • A $4.2 million grant to the Regents of the University of California to construct new staff housing and storage facilities, enhance a campground, improve existing structures for visiting researchers and upgrade roads and other infrastructure at the Blue Oak Ranch Reserve, approximately 9 miles east of the City of San Jose in Santa Clara County.
  • A $2 million grant to the San Bernardino Mountains Land Trust to acquire approximately  166 acres of very rare and endangered pebble plain habitat that supports a wide variety of endemic plant species, just south of Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains, in San Bernardino County.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

At its June 4 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $21.8 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 19 funded projects will provide benefits to fish and wildlife – including some endangered species – while others will provide the public with access to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, land owners and the local community. The funds for all these projects come from bond initiatives approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $1.4 million grant to the Bear Yuba Land Trust to acquire approximately 652 acres of land along the Bear River in Nevada County, for the purpose of wildlife habitat protection including riparian, riverine and oak woodland habitat communities.
  • A $3 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust for a cooperative project with Placer County, Northern Sierra Partnership, the Trust For Public Land and private donors to acquire two parcels totaling approximately 2,520 acres of land in Nevada and Placer counties, in order to protect alpine forests and meadows, wildlife corridors and habitat links, and provide future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities.
  • A $5 million grant to Sonoma Land Trust (Trust) for a cooperative project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Federal Highway Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Department of Water Resources and State Coastal Conservancy to restore 955 acres of tidal marsh on the Trust’s Sears Point Property in Sonoma County, five miles east of the city of Novato.
  • A $660,000 grant to Big Sur Land Trust to assist with the acquisition of a conservation easement over approximately 964 acres of land to preserve and protect native oak woodland, grassland, riparian and wildlife habitat, and sustain working landscapes in Monterey County, 6 miles northeast of the city of Salinas.
  • A $570,000 grant to the California Rangeland Trust to assist with the acquisition of a conservation easement over approximately 575 acres of land approximately 12 miles south of Lake Isabella in Kern County to preserve, protect and sustain the rangeland, grazing land, grassland, working landscapes, wildlife habitat, and watersheds.
  • Acceptance of settlement funds from the U.S. Department of the Interior Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Fund (a.k.a. ARCO funds), and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Land Acquisition grant and the approval to sub-grant the ARCO funds and $260,000 grant funds to The Nature Conservancy (TNC) to acquire approximately 286 acres of land just south of community of Acton in Los Angeles County to protect habitat for threatened and endangered species, and maintain habitat connectivity within the upper Santa Clara River floodplain and watershed in Arrastre Canyon, a tributary to the Santa Clara River.

For more information about the WCB please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

Tehama County CDFW Officer Selected as NWFT Wildlife Officer-of-the-Year

The National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) has selected Wildlife Officer Mitch Carlson as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s (CDFW) Wildlife Officer-of-the-Year for 2012.

Every year, NWTF honors a California wildlife officer who serves as an outstanding example of its mission on behalf of wild turkeys, turkey hunting and wildlife conservation. Carlson will now be in the competition for the federation’s national officer of the year award.

Wildlife Officer Carlson patrols northern Tehama County, which is known for healthy turkey populations. During the spring and fall turkey hunting seasons, he devotes much of his patrol time to protecting the resources and has developed an excellent reputation for differentiating between turkey hunters and poachers.

On his own initiative, Carlson in 2012 coordinated and implemented a wildlife habitat restoration project on the Merrill’s Landing Wildlife Area. The 300-acre wildlife area had experienced a massive noxious weed infestation resulting in dramatically reduced habitat quality.

“Waist-high yellow starthistle, a noxious weed, choked off native vegetation and rendered the area almost useless to wildlife,” said Carlson. “Habitat quality, more than anything else, affects wildlife populations.”

In order to complete his vision for a restored wildlife area, Carlson brought together several state and federal agencies, including CDFW, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, CAL FIRE, the Tehama County Fish & Game Commission and others to provide labor and funding for the restoration. The ongoing project should be complete by the spring of 2014.

In addition to turkeys, the project will benefit black-tailed deer, waterfowl, song birds, resident upland game birds and various species listed as threatened or endangered such as the elderberry longhorn beetle, western yellow-billed cuckoo, bank swallow and Swainson’s hawk.

Carlson has been a wildlife officer for 11 years and takes pride in the protection of resources and sharing his knowledge, experience, training and education with other wardens by being a firearms and defensive tactics instructor, defensive tactics and firearms committee member, firearms armorer, and TASER instructor.  He is the lead trainer in defensive tactics for CDFW’s Wildlife Officer Academy. He is also an avid turkey hunter in his off-time.

On Jan. 1, 2013 the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) became the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). The new name was mandated by AB 2402, which was signed Sept. 25 by Gov. Edmund G. Brown Jr. and is one of numerous provisions passed into law during 2012 that affect the department. Traditionally known as game wardens, the department’s law enforcement staff will now be called wildlife officers

The NWTF is a national nonprofit conservation and hunting organization that, along with its volunteers, partners and sponsors, has worked for the conservation of the wild turkey and preservation of our hunting heritage. When the NWTF was established in 1973, there were only 1.3 million wild turkeys. Today that number stands at more than seven million birds throughout North America and hunting seasons have been established in 49 U.S. states, Canada and Mexico.

Media Contacts:
Wildlife Officer Mark Michilizzi, CDFW Law Enforcement (916) 651-2084

Guide to Southern California Marine Protected Areas Now Available

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has released a printed Guide to Southern California Marine Protected Areas that clearly shows boundaries of the new marine protected areas (MPAs) along the Southern California coast.

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Guides are free and available from DFG offices in Santa Barbara, Los Alamitos and San Diego, as well as selected ocean-related businesses and harbormasters’ offices along the coast.

“This booklet makes it possible for us to reach a broader audience by putting printed local marine protected area information directly in the hands of the public,” said Paul Hamdorf, Acting DFG Marine Region Manager.

This full-color Guide includes maps, coordinates, shoreline boundary images and regulations for Southern California MPAs along the coast from Point Conception in Santa Barbara County to the U.S./Mexico border, and around islands. Also included are descriptions of the goals of the Marine Life Protection Act which guided the MPAs’ development, answers to frequently asked questions and links to DFG web pages with additional information.

Southern California MPAs went into effect on Jan. 1, 2012, after the California Fish and Game Commission adopted regulations in 2011. This network of 50 MPAs (including 13 pre-existing MPAs retained at the northern Channel Islands) and two special closures covers approximately 355 square miles of state waters and represents approximately 15 percent of the region.

For a list of locations and maps where booklets can be found, please go to www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/sclocations.asp. The Guide itself is also available for online viewing and printing at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/guidebooks.asp.

For more information, please visit DFG’s Southern California MPAs webpage at www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/southcoast.asp.

Media Contacts:
Carrie Wilson, DFG Marine Region, (831) 649-7191
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

Public Contact:
Mary Patyten, DFG Marine Region, (707) 964-5026

DFG Surveys Salmon Anglers on Central Valley Rivers

The Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) Central Valley angler surveys have begun on the American, Feather, Mokelumne and Sacramento rivers. Over the next five months, survey crews will repeatedly visit 20 different sections of river to cover the full extent of the inland salmon fishery. Survey crews count the number of boats and anglers, weigh and measure each fish caught and collect the heads of those salmon imbedded with a coded wire tag.

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“The information the survey crews collect is vital to understanding the dynamics of the salmon fishery resource and for setting seasons in the future,” said Mike Brown, a DFG environmental scientist. “The collection of salmon heads imbedded with tiny coded wire tags provides a history of how each hatchery release has fared and gives us information that can help guide salmon management in future years.”

During the 2011 Central Valley fall-run Chinook salmon sport fishery survey, crews contacted more than 4,000 fishing parties, measured 2,805 salmon and collected 652 salmon heads with coded wire tags in them. This and other baseline information were fed into a computer program that estimated the total effort and harvest of Chinook salmon in the 2011 Central Valley river sport fishery.

Those results showed approximately 60,500 salmon were caught and kept and 10,990 salmon were released for a total catch of 71,489. Seventy percent of the salmon kept were 2-year-olds, also known as “jacks.” Anglers fished on average about 14 hours to catch a salmon.

The 2012 salmon season is anticipated to be more productive than 2011.

Since 2007, 25 percent of salmon smolts released at each of the five Central Valley salmon hatcheries had their adipose fin clipped and a tiny coded wire tag inserted into the fleshy portion of their snout. Samplers check each salmon to see if its adopse fin, the small fleshy lobe on the fish’s back between the dorsal fin and the tail fin, is missing. If it is missing, the fish bears a coded wire tag.

During the survey, samplers carry large plastic bags for anglers to carry salmon after heads are removed. Upon request, the angler survey will provide the angler with a recognition letter containing information about their catch, including hatchery origin, age and release information.   Although anglers on occasion do not want samplers to take the head of their catch, most voluntarily comply once the reason for the collection is explained.

Section 8226 of the Fish and Game Code states, “Anglers upon request by an authorized agent of the Department, [must] immediately relinquish the head of the salmon to the State.”

The data collected by survey crews is essential for management of the highly popular salmon fishery.

Anglers can review a summary of the Central Valley Fall-Run Sports Fishery for 2011 at:

 http://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=43505&inline=1

Media Contacts:
Mike Brown, DFG Environmental Scientist, (916) 227-4989
Harry Morse, DFG Communications, (916) 323-1478

Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project Under Way With Public Input

Public Invited to Submit Comments on the Scope of Environmental Documents

The California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have begun the process of developing environmental reviews for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands in west Los Angeles County. The documents will review potential designs for the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve and evaluate their likely impacts on wildlife, water pollution, local traffic and other factors.  The public is encouraged to submit suggestions for the environmental review at a scoping meeting planned for August 16, 2012.

The Ballona Wetlands was at one time a large wetland complex that covered more than 2,000 acres along the coast near Los Angeles, from Playa del Rey to Venice. Today, the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve encompasses 600 acres owned by the State of California and offers one of the largest opportunities for repairing lost coastal wetlands in Los Angeles County. The site contains important habitat and is identified as a high priority for restoration in the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Plan and the regional strategy of the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project.

The area is currently off-limits to the public. After restoration, the site will be open to residents and visitors for walking, biking, birdwatching and learning about nature. The project may involve removing the concrete levees on Ballona Creek to restore river and marsh habitat between Marina del Rey and the Westchester Bluffs, west of Lincoln Boulevard.  Due to construction costs logistics and wildlife management needs, the project would take several years to build even after it is approved.

DFG and the Corps will hold a scoping meeting on Thursday, August 16, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. The site is across from Fisherman’s Village and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors).

Members of the public are invited to attend, speak to agency representatives and provide input for the environmental review. The agencies expect to examine the impacts to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, water quality, land use and planning, noise, public services, recreation, sea-level rise, traffic and others.

Written comments on the scope of environmental review, or additional issues may be submitted at the scoping meeting or sent to the address listed below. Comments will be accepted until September 10, 2012

Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project
C/O Donna McCormick
1 Ada, Suite 100
Irvine, CA  92816 or by email to Donna.McCormick@icfi.com

Additional information on the project and the environmental review process is available on the Ballona Wetlands Restoration website at: www.ballonarestoration.org.

Media Contacts:
David Lawhead, DFG Region 5, (858) 627-3997
Donna McCormick, ICF International, (949) 333-6611
Dr. Daniel P. Swenson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (213) 452-3414

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

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At its May 31 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved $29.4  million to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The 30 funded projects will provide benefits to fish and wildlife species, including some endangered species, and others will provide public access opportunities to important natural resources. Several projects will also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes that integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment, the landowner and the local community. The funds for all of these projects come from recent bond initiatives approved by the voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $1.4 million grant to the Regents of the University of California to construct a new classroom/lecture hall, install underground utilities, improve existing roadway and parking areas, and replace water control structures at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, approximately eight miles east of Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.
  • A $234,000 grant to the East Bay Regional Park District to replace an existing vault toilet with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible restroom, construct an ADA parking space, improve an ADA path and conduct a structural engineering inspection of the Point Pinole Fishing Pier at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park in Contra Costa County.
  • A $552,076 grant to the Monterey County Parks Department to acquire approximately 113 acres to protect native grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian woodlands and seasonal wetlands that serve as an important wildlife corridor. The land is located west of Salinas, adjacent to the Toro County Park, along Highway 68, in Monterey County.
  • Acceptance of a $10,000 grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Habitat Conservation Planning grant that will be passed on to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission to acquire approximately 1,342 acres of land for the protection of Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat, and to provide future wildlife oriented public use opportunities.
  • A $2 million grant to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to acquire a working forest conservation easement over approximately 4,024 acres located two miles southeast of the community of Bridgeville in Humboldt County, where the State proposes to administer federal Forest Legacy Program  funds to protect forest land, important scenic, fish, wildlife, riparian and other ecological values under the California Forest Legacy Program.
  • A $1.5 million grant to the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) to acquire fee title of approximately 763 acres of land south of Suisun City, north of Grizzly Bay in Solano County, for the protection of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands and associated upland areas that support migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and threatened and endangered species, including the fully-listed salt-marsh harvest mouse.
  • A $2 million grant to CWA to acquire fee title of approximately 982 acres of land in Solano County, south of Suisun City and north of Grizzly Bay for the protection of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands and associated upland areas that support migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and threatened and endangered species, including the fully-listed salt-marsh harvest mouse.
  • A $2.8 million grant to the Solano Land Trust for a cooperative project with the California Coastal Conservancy, Moore Foundation, City of Fairfield, Resources Legacy Fund and the Syar Foundation to acquire approximately 1,165 acres of land in the hills north of Cordelia Junction, in Solano County to protect significant natural landscapes and wildlife corridors. This land runs north to the Blueridge open space areas near Lake Berryessa and includes oak woodland, grassland, wetland and riparian habitats, and will provide access and passive recreational opportunities to the public.
  • An $8 million grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc., for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy and the Department of Fish and Game to restore approximately 230 acres of coastal wetlands and to construct public access improvements at ponds E12 and E13 at DFG’s Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, approximately 5.5 miles west of Union City in Alameda County.
  • A $400,000 grant to the State Coastal Conservancy for a cooperative project with the Earth Island Institute to assist with the implementation of the Community Wetland Restoration Grant Program that provides funding for community-based restoration projects in coastal wetlands and watersheds in Southern California. Projects are located in the five coastal counties from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border, including portions of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties.

For more information about the WCB, please visit www.wcb.ca.gov.

DFG Begins New Study to Increase Survival of Out-migrating Juvenile Salmon

Department of Fish and Game (DFG) biologists are trying a new tactic to help California’s ocean-bound juvenile salmon, in hopes of increasing survival rates. On May 3, for the first time in state history, DFG staff used a boat to move approximately 100,000 young Chinook (called smolts) down the Sacramento River to San Francisco Bay. Upon arrival, the smolts were released in the Bay, where they will grow to adulthood before returning upriver to spawn.

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“We’ve been using trucks to transport smolts to points downstream for years, but we’ve never moved them by barge, and we’ve never moved them this far,” said DFG Environmental Scientist Colin Purdy, who supervised the boat transport to the Bay Area. “Truck releases are typically much further upstream, and though they do shorten the fish’s journey to the ocean, they still face all kinds of hazards in the river. It’s possible we could better the chances of survival for this species just by making a few thoughtful changes in our operating practices. The data we collect over the next few years will tell the story, but we’re hopeful that we’ll see positive results.”

Salmon return to their spawning grounds using their sense of smell. The process, called imprinting, begins before birth as waters flow over the eggs and continues as they grow and make their way to the ocean. Each segment of water on their journey has distinctive chemical cues which they can re-trace to their spawning grounds. Water is circulated through pumps from the Sacramento River into the boat’s holding tank, where the fish are kept. The hope is that this may improve their ability to find their way back as an adult and predators are unable to access the fish in the holding tank during the journey downstream.

This is the beginning of a multi-year study program aimed at increasing return rates of salmon from the sea to their native rivers. Over the next few years, scientists will use the data collected from the fish to test and evaluate the idea that overall survival rates and increased adult returns can be better achieved by barging the young salmon downstream.

To form a basis of comparison for this study, two other control groups of 100,000 smolts each were released by trucks in other locations at the same time as the barge release — one at a different location in the Bay, and one into the Sacramento River near Sacramento. All 300,000 fish in this study were implanted with coded wire tags smaller than a tiny piece of pencil lead, which will ultimately enable scientists to tell which of the three groups the returning fish came from — the barge release, or one of the two truck releases.

The study is being conducted by DFG fisheries biologists with the support of the Commercial Salmon Trollers Advisory Committee, which donated the use of the boat, fuel and crew time to help ensure a successful start to the study. They have committed to helping DFG for the next three years of data collection.

“This has been a major cooperative effort and we really appreciate DFG’s willingness to work with everybody and look at new ways of doing things,” said Zeke Grader, Executive Director of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen. “DFG is committed to decreasing straying rates among the salmon migrating up the Sacramento River. Barging may be one way to achieve this goal.”

Scientists hope to confirm that — unlike the usual method of transporting the fish by truck — the boat transport will both eliminate in-river hazards such as getting lost or being eaten by predators, and give the smolts a chance to imprint on their native stream on their way to the ocean, improving their chances of successful return.

Media Contacts:
Colin Purdy, DFG Region 2, (916) 358-2832
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944

DFG Completes First Safe Harbor Agreement

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8908

Private Landowners Play Pivotal Role in Long Term Conservation

The Department Fish and Game (DFG) has issued its first safe harbor agreement with the Agriculture and Land Based Training Association (ALBA).

This agreement covers the management actions on ALBA’s Triple M Ranch in northern Monterey County, where wetland restoration activities will improve water quality and breeding habitat for the state’s threatened California tiger salamander.

“We are truly excited to be issuing the state’s first safe harbor agreement and look forward to working with other land owners to promote conservation throughout California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of DFG. “The support of private citizens, tribes, municipalities and others will help us reverse the decline of species large and small for future generations to enjoy.”

Promoting conservation of state-listed species and habitats on private lands, a safe harbor agreement (SHA) assures landowners who voluntarily take conservation actions that no future regulatory restrictions will be imposed as a result of their efforts.

“The California Safe Harbor Program is aligned with our project goal to demonstrate the compatibility between natural areas and organic production,” said Ed Moncrief, ALBA Board Chair. “As an organization that provides farmers the education, space, and support to develop economically and ecologically sustainable farming businesses, we are proud to also be the first landowner issued a safe harbor agreement by DFG.”

Overall, the goal of the program is to increase the populations of state-listed species through the creation of new habitats or enhancing existing ones. Although the increase can be temporary or long term, a SHA must result in a “net conservation benefit” to the covered species. It cannot result in a reduction of existing populations of species present at the time the baseline is established. An approved monitoring program must be established for the duration of the agreement to evaluate its effectiveness.

The California Safe Harbor Program is comparable to the federal Safe Harbor Program, which allows for the development of joint state/federal SHAs to cover both state and federally listed species occurring on the same property.

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