Category Archives: Climate Change

CDFW Now Accepting Proposals for Ecosystem Restoration and Protection Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for ecosystem restoration and protection projects under its 2019 Proposal Solicitation Notice. For Fiscal Year (FY) 2019-2020, a total of $53 million will be made available for these grants, which are funded through Propositions 1 and 68.

Funding will be allocated according to a diverse set of priorities for projects statewide, including:

  • $24 million for the Proposition 1 Watershed Restoration Grant Program;
  • $7 million for the Proposition 1 Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program;
  • $4.4 million for Proposition 68 Rivers and Streams Restoration Grants;
  • $8.8 million for Proposition 68 Southern California Steelhead Grants; and
  • $8.8 million for Proposition 68 Habitat Improvement Grants.

This is the fifth of 10 planned solicitations under CDFW’s Proposition 1 Grant Programs and the first under Proposition 68.

“As we reach the halfway point in funding projects through Prop. 1, we are excited to stand up new programs under Prop. 68 and extend our reach to more areas of critical need,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “With these grant programs, we can sustain ongoing efforts while jump-starting new ones.”

The deadline to apply is Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018 at 4 p.m. Proposals must be submitted online at https://watershedgrants.wildlife.ca.gov.

The solicitation, application instructions and other information about the grant programs are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/watersheds/restoration-grants.

Approved projects will contribute to the objectives of California Water Action Plan and State Wildlife Action Plan, the Delta Plan, California EcoRestore and the fulfillment of CDFW’s mission.

Approved by California voters in November 2014, Proposition 1 provides funds to implement the three broad objectives of the California Water Action Plan: establishing more reliable water supplies, restoring important species and habitat and creating a more resilient, sustainably managed water resources system (water supply, water quality, flood protection and environment) that can better withstand inevitable and unforeseen pressures in the coming decades.

The California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access For All Act of 2018 (Proposition 68), approved by California voters in June 2018, provides funds projects that improve a community’s ability to adapt to the unavoidable impacts of climate change; improve and protect coastal and rural economies, agricultural viability, wildlife corridors, or habitat; develop future recreational opportunities; or enhance drought tolerance, landscape resilience and water retention.

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Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285

Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

California Sea Otter Numbers Take a Slight Dip From Last Year, but Average Count Exceeds 3,090 for Third Consecutive Year

Southern sea otter numbers have declined off the coast of California since peaking in 2016, but the average population count remains above 3,090 for the third consecutive year. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Southern Sea Otter Recovery Plan, the population average count would have to exceed 3,090 for three consecutive years for southern sea otters to be considered for delisting under the Endangered Species Act.

Despite the recent dip in numbers, the population average count this year has reached this three-year threshold.

According to data just released by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), this year’s average count of 3,128 was 58 sea otters lower than the 2017 survey. Southern sea otters, Enhydra lutris nereis, are designated as threatened under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

“Reaching this threshold is a milestone in southern sea otter recovery, but it will be important to review all factors influencing the population to determine whether or not delisting is appropriate using the best available science,” said Lilian Carswell, southern sea otter recovery coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “For the southern sea otter, those factors include ongoing threats such as shark bite mortality, lack of range expansion, and changes in prey.”

In part, this year’s dip reflects a 2.2 percent decrease in the three-year average count of the sea otter’s mainland population, which stretches from about Point Año Nuevo in San Mateo County to a few kilometers west of Gaviota State Beach in Santa Barbara County. In contrast, the small sea otter population at San Nicolas Island continues to increase.

“Surface kelp canopies were abundant this year within the otter’s mainland range compared to last year when they were very sparse,” said Brian Hatfield, the USGS wildlife biologist coordinating the annual range-wide survey. “This may have influenced sea otter distribution and contributed to the higher count in the center of their range.”

Scientists from CDFW, USGS and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have conducted this range-wide census of southern sea otter populations every year since the 1980s, except for 2011, when poor weather conditions prevented completion of the field research. Researchers compute the annual population index and evaluate population trends, providing the USFWS and other resource agencies with insight into southern sea otter abundance and distribution.

The mainland population of sea otters was largest in the central part of the species’ range, which is between Seaside and Cayucos; it increased slightly in the southern part of the range. North of the central region, however, the five-year trend in sea otter populations continued to drop. Changes at the range ends have implications for the long-term outlook for sea otter recovery.

“We continue to recover high numbers of shark-bitten sea otters along the northern and southern ends of the range. These are the same areas we’ve documented a decrease in abundance. This trend is concerning and is likely impacting population expansion and recovery,” said Mike Harris, senior environmental scientist with CDFW.

In addition to the sea otter population along the mainland California coast, USGS and partners also survey the sea otters at San Nicolas Island in the Southern California Bight. This population, established by introducing sea otters back into the area in the late 1980s, struggled at low numbers through the 1990s. However, over the last decade, the population has grown rapidly at an average rate of about 10 percent per year.

The sea otter survey and stranding programs are just one part of a larger research program investigating sea otters and their role as predators in coastal ecosystems. As a “keystone” species, sea otters can give scientists clues on the health of Pacific nearshore ecosystems, which support diverse wildlife species and provide economic support for coastal communities. To keep a finger on the pulse of sea otter populations, USGS researchers monitor changes in the kelp forest ecosystems that provide sea otters with suitable resting and feeding habitat. USGS also collaborates with CDFW and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in running a sea otter stranding network. The findings from these coordinated efforts inform and support effective management of sea otter populations to guide them toward recovery.

Survey Methodology

  • The annual population index is calculated from visual surveys conducted via telescope observations from shore and via low-flying aircraft along the California coastline by researchers, students and volunteers from CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, Monterey Bay Aquarium, USGS, UCSC, USFWS and the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
  • This year, the surveyed coastline spanned from Pillar Point in San Mateo County, south to Rincon Point near the Santa Barbara/Ventura County line, and included San Nicolas Island.

About the Sea Otter

  • Sea otters were presumed extinct in California after the fur trade years, but they were rediscovered in the 1930s, when about 50 animals were documented near Bixby Creek north of Big Sur.
  • Sea otters are considered a keystone species of rocky sub-tidal ecosystems because they prey on sea urchins that, if left unchecked, can decimate kelp beds.
  • Scientists also study sea otters as an indicator of nearshore ecosystem health, since sea otters feed and live near the coast and often are the first predators exposed to pollutants and pathogens washed down from coastlands, such as the microbial toxin microcystin.
  • The public can report sightings of stranded sea otters to institutions listed on this webpage.

More detailed survey results and maps are available in the full report “Spring 2018 California Sea Otter Census Results,” which is available online.

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Media Contacts:
Steve Gonzalez, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (916) 715-9072
Michael Harris, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, (805) 772-1135
Ashley McConnell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (805) 320-6225
Robyn Gerstenslager
, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, (805) 701-5751

 

CDFW Accepting Proposals for Restoration Projects that Provide Greenhouse Gas Benefits

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is now accepting proposals for wetland restoration projects to provide greenhouse gas benefits under its Wetlands Restoration for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program.

For Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-18, $12.75 million is available from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund for projects. The Proposal Solicitation Notice released today focuses on restoration of coastal tidal wetlands, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta wetlands, and mountain meadows, to provide greenhouse gas benefits and other co-benefits.

“Working wetlands provide a natural benefit with their ability to capture carbon, pure and simple,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This greenhouse gas reduction effort combined with the critical ecological and hydrological benefits of restored wetlands and meadows is a win-win for our resources. We are excited to continue the momentum of our initial efforts and fund more work, which will provide long-lasting results.”

The FY 2017-2018 Proposal Solicitation Notice, application instructions and other information about the grant program are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Watersheds/Greenhouse-Gas-Reduction.

Proposals must be submitted online at https://watershedgrants.wildlife.ca.gov. The deadline to apply is Tuesday, July 31, 2018 at 4 p.m.

This is the second solicitation since the establishment of CDFW’s Wetlands Restoration for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program in 2014. The first grant cycle was completed with approximately $21 million being awarded to 12 projects to restore or enhance approximately 2,500 acres of wetlands and mountain meadows for the purposes of greenhouse gas benefits.

The Wetlands Restoration for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program is part of California Climate Investments, a statewide program that puts billions of Cap-and-Trade dollars to work reducing greenhouse gas emissions, strengthening the economy, and improving public health and the environment – particularly in disadvantaged communities.

For more information, visit the California Climate Investments website at www.caclimateinvestments.ca.gov.

Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Kyle Orr, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8958

Settlement Agreement Signed for Panoche Valley Solar Project

Agreement Resolves Long-Running Disputes, Advances Renewable Energy Goals, Creates Jobs, and Preserves more than 26,000 Acres for Endangered Wildlife

The Sierra Club, Defenders of Wildlife, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society (collectively the “Environmental Groups”), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and Panoche Valley Solar LLC (a subsidiary of Consolidated Edison Development, Inc.), have entered into a settlement agreement concerning the size and location of a solar project currently under development in California’s Panoche Valley. The agreement will help advance renewable energy in the state, create local jobs, and protect the environment. Once final, the settlement will permanently conserve more than 26,000 acres for wildlife habitat.

Initially, 247 MW of solar generation was planned for development in the Panoche Valley, but now approximately 100 MW is instead proposed for development at a site in Imperial County, California. Development at the Imperial County site will have less impact on threatened and endangered species and their habitat. The relocation of that portion of the project is subject to approval by Southern California Edison (SCE) and the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). The settlement will also resolve several legal challenges commenced against the project by the Environmental Groups.

The Panoche Valley Solar Project was first proposed in 2009 and as planned would have directly impacted nearly 5,000 acres of high quality and uniquely important habitat. This settlement will reduce the size of the project in the Panoche Valley to slightly more than 1,300 acres and permanently conserve approximately 26,418 acres in and around the Panoche Valley.

The Environmental Groups assert that the Panoche Valley has the last intact, but unprotected, grasslands in the San Joaquin Valley and is home to many rare and endangered species including the giant kangaroo rat, the San Joaquin kit fox, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

The valley is also designated an Important Bird Area of Global Significance by the National Audubon Society and Birdlife International because the grasslands provide essential habitat for myriad resident and migratory bird species. All of these species have been under threat from the expansion of housing developments, agriculture, oil and gas exploration, and drought.

Sarah Friedman, Sierra Club’s Senior Campaign Representative for the Beyond Coal Campaign, said:

 “As we work toward lowering carbon pollution, it’s critical that new clean energy development is not done at the expense of endangered animals and their habitat. The Panoche Valley is critical habitat for three highly endangered species, and the development throughout the valley as originally planned would have been devastating. This settlement agreement came about after years of work to preserve the endangered wildlife and delicate habitat in this valley.”

Kim Delfino, Defenders of Wildlife’s California Program Director, said:

 “The Panoche Valley is a globally important landscape and is the only remaining intact habitat for endangered upland San Joaquin Valley species like the giant kangaroo rat, San Joaquin kit fox and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard. The new agreement recognizes the significant conservation value of the Panoche Valley, reduces the size of the project in this unique valley and moves half of the project to a better site outside of the valley. When projects are planned ‘smart from the start’ it ensures that we will not sacrifice California’s natural heritage to meet our clean energy goals.”

Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate with the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, said:

“Birds and bird-enthusiasts should applaud this outcome. Our agreement helps achieve California’s goals of energy independence, and at the same time preserves critical grassland habitat that is home to 130 bird species, including species that are suffering steep population decline such as the burrowing owl, the mountain plover, and tricolored blackbirds.”

Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW, said:

 “Con Edison Development’s leadership and the environmental groups deserve a lot of credit for opening a dialogue with the Department and asking whether it was better to negotiate and collaborate than litigate. Now these lands will be conserved in perpetuity for some of California’s rarest animals without a loss of one megawatt. This settlement shows that it is possible to balance the environment and the economy to achieve ambitious renewable energy goals.”

Mark Noyes, President and Chief Executive Officer of Panoche Valley Solar LLC, said:

 “This settlement with the CDFW and the Environmental Groups to lessen the impact of the PVS solar project on Panoche Valley is reflective of Con Edison Development’s corporate value of concern for the environment and commitment to continue the development of clean energy generation in a responsible manner. We will work diligently with the other parties to obtain the

remaining approval of SCE and the CPUC so that the conditions of the settlement can be fully implemented for the benefit of the Panoche Valley ecosystem and the citizens of California.”

Media Contacts:

  • Thomas Young, Deputy Press Secretary, Sierra Club, young@sierraclub.org, (719) 393-2354
  • Catalina Tresky, Communications Associate, Defenders of Wildlife, ctresky@defenders.org, (202) 772-0253
  • Shani Kleinhaus, Environmental Advocate, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Advocate@scvas.org, (650) 868-2114
  • Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
  • Christine Nevin, Director, Business & Media Relations, Con Edison Clean Energy Businesses, nevinc@conedsolutions.com, (914) 286-7094

CDFW Climate Change Expert Honored for Innovation

Dr. Amber Pairis, director of the Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, recently received the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Climate Adaption Leadership Award for Natural Resources. The award recognized her inventive approaches to preparing Southern California for the effects of climate change.

The Climate Science Alliance is a partnership between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Landscape Conservation Cooperative with more than 140 partner agencies and organizations. Its mission is to increase resilience to climate change among the natural and human communities of the South Coast Eco-region through community-focused activities and partnerships.

“Today we recognize individuals and agencies who are developing and using innovative methods to safeguard the nation’s living natural resources from a rapidly changing world,” said Kevin Hunting, chief deputy director of CDFW and co‐chair of the Joint Implementation Working Group of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy. “Their leadership is a source of inspiration for additional efforts to advance climate‐smart resource conservation and management with lasting positive impacts on the nation’s communities and economy.”

Recipients were selected from 27 nominations representing activities from individuals and federal, tribal, state, local and non‐governmental organizations throughout the country. Dr. Pairis’ nomination was submitted by the Pala Band of Mission Indians.

Dr. Pairis has worked on climate change issues since 2005. In 2013, Governor Brown appointed her assistant secretary for climate change at the California Natural Resources Agency to coordinate the state’s nature-based climate adaptation activities. Previously, as senior climate change advisor for CDFW she created the Climate Science Program, CDFW Climate College, the Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies’ Climate Committee, and supported development of the National Fish, Wildlife and Plants Climate Adaptation Strategy.

The San Diego native earned her doctorate in environmental studies with an emphasis on conservation biology at Antioch University New England.

California’s natural resources provide important benefits and services to Americans every day, including jobs, income, food, clean water and air, building materials, storm protection, tourism and recreation. For example, outdoor wildlife‐related recreation contributes an estimated $7.5 billion to our state’s economy every year, and marine ecosystems sustain a seafood industry that supports more than 130,000 jobs and $23.4 billion in economic activity annually.

Information about CDFW’s Climate Science Program is at https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Climate-Science.

For more information about the 2017 Climate Adaptation Leadership Awards for Natural Resources, including the eight recipients, honorable mentions, and all 27 nominees, please visit the Climate Adaptation Leadership Award main page.

A woman gestures enthusiastically with seven children at a classroom table
Amber Pairis teaches kids about climate change

Media Contacts:
Dr. Amber Pairis, Climate Science Alliance-South Coast, (916) 205-9478
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420