Category Archives: Drought

Sage-Grouse Hunting Suspended for 2017 Season

On June 21, the California Fish and Game Commission (Commission) voted unanimously to reduce sage-grouse hunting permits to zero for the 2017 season. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recommended this action to the Commission based on spring lek (breeding ground) surveys that showed significantly fewer sage-grouse in all four hunting zones.

Although managed hunting, in and of itself, is not considered a risk to the species, five years of drought conditions, the large-scale Rush Fire of 2012 and heavy storms in winter 2016-17 have all contributed to habit loss and degradation of the sagebrush ecosystem. Scientists found that sage-grouse population counts have decreased between 47 percent and 62 percent in the four hunt zones over the last five years.

CDFW bases its population estimates on extensive scientific data collected in the field. However, heavy winter snow hampered biologists’ access to sage-grouse leks this spring, and some sage-grouse that were present in the survey area may not have been accounted for in the survey. CDFW thus took a precautionary approach in making its recommendation to the Commission.

Sage-grouse populations fluctuate naturally based on weather and habitat conditions. By this fall, California’s sage-grouse population is projected to be 1,341 on the low end and 2,145 on the high end.

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies coordinates conservation efforts across the 11 western states and two Canadian provinces where sage-grouse live. Leaders from dozens of participating state and federal agencies meet quarterly to work toward achieving shared conservation goals.

In 2015, a proposal to list the sage-grouse under the federal Endangered Species Act was determined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to be not warranted, following review of stakeholder-developed conservation plans and amendments to federal land use plans throughout the species range, including California.

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Media Contact:
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 591-0140

 

CDFW Plans Public Meetings on Water Use and Native Fishery Impacts in South Bay Coastal Counties

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), in collaboration with the Santa Cruz and San Mateo Resource Conservation Districts and the State Water Resources Control Board, will hold two public meetings to address how residents can contribute to water conservation efforts that will help save native fisheries. The streams in this area are home to the last remaining coho salmon populations south of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The meetings will be held at the following times and locations:

Wednesday, June 1

6:30 to 8 p.m.
Resource Center for Non Violence
612 Ocean Street
Santa Cruz (95060)

Thursday, June 2

6:30 to 8 p.m.
Pescadero Native Sons Community Hall
112 Stage Road
Pescadero (94060)

The watersheds of Santa Cruz and San Mateo counties constitute the southern end of the natural range of coho salmon in California. Ongoing drought conditions were not significantly affected by this winter’s rains, and coho and steelhead trout in this region continue to face severe obstacles to population recovery. Wild coho salmon are drastically depleted – from San Gregorio and Pescadero creeks in coastal San Mateo County to the San Lorenzo River and Soquel and Aptos creeks in Santa Cruz County.  Reduced stream flow has resulted in a series of disconnected pools, trapping juvenile fish and exposing them to increased threats.

The meetings will provide an opportunity to discuss the reliability of the local water supply and offer information to residents who are not on municipal water supply. Landowners in coastal watersheds that depend on water from wells or stream diversions will learn what they can do to reduce their impacts on threatened or endangered native fish species, as well as comply with state water use and reporting requirements.

Grant funding opportunities that may be available for water conservation and water storage projects will also be reviewed at these public meetings.

“Water conservation in these critical watersheds needs to be a daily commitment,” said Eric Larson, an environmental program manager with CDFW. “The information provided at these meetings will illustrate water conservation methods that have been effective in similar settings.”

Media Contacts:
David Moore, CDFW Bay Delta Region, (707) 766-8380
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

 

 

CDFW Monitors Effect of Severe Drought on Wildlife

Stream- and Wetland-Dependent Species Most at Risk

Amphibian, reptile, bird and mammal populations that depend on freshwater marsh, streamside habitat and wet meadows are struggling most to endure the drought that has gripped California for more than four years, according to a comprehensive assessment released today by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

CDFW biologists ranked the vulnerability of the state’s terrestrial species and gave top priority for additional monitoring and assistance to 48 species. The greatest concentrations of these high-risk populations are found in Southern California coastal, mountain and valley regions, the Sierra Nevada mountain range, the Mojave Desert, Central Valley and the southern Cascade mountain range.

The majority of these “Priority 1” species are found in freshwater marsh, riparian and wet meadow habitats. The species include the mountain yellow-legged frog, the giant garter snake, tricolored blackbird and the Amargosa vole.

CDFW researchers analyzed and assessed the vulnerability of more than 358 land species. Scientists then classified them into Priority I (most vulnerable) and Priority II (less vulnerable) categories. All of the species evaluated were threatened, endangered or were otherwise considered species of special concern before the drought impacted them.

CDFW also determined the San Joaquin Valley, southern Sierra Nevada, western Mojave Desert and Owens Valley areas experienced the least amount of normal average rainfall during this extended drought. As a result, wildlife in these regions struggle most finding resources to survive.

“While many species are mobile and able to deal with periods of extended drought, some are more vulnerable than others,” said CDFW Program Manager Karen Miner. “Each species plays an important role in the overall health of the ecosystem and contributes something that impacts other animals in the food chain. It’s important to recognize that the effects of extended or more frequent extreme droughts may not be immediately apparent for some species.”

CDFW is taking action to help the most vulnerable species. Funding for these projects comes from several sources including emergency drought response funds provided in the current state budget, California’s Threatened and Endangered Species tax check-off program, federal grant programs, and contributions from a number of universities and other agencies working to save these rare animals.

  • In the Sierra Nevada and Northern California mountain ranges, amphibians such as yellow-legged frogs, Yosemite toads and Cascades frogs are struggling. Some species’ tadpoles require multiple years to develop into juveniles and lack of suitable habitat has eliminated several years of breeding effort at once. Removal of non-native predatory fish from select areas as well as assistance with disease intervention, translocations and reintroductions are underway to improve their chances of long-term survival.
  • In the Mojave Desert, researchers identified the Amargosa vole as a species of great concern. Voles play an important role as a prey species and were on the verge of extinction because their habitat had dried up. Juveniles were rescued and taken into captivity to establish a breeding population. Once suitable habitat is secured or restored, the voles will be released to the wild.
  • In southern Santa Cruz and northern Monterey counties, monitoring of the endangered Santa Cruz long-toed salamander revealed that over the last three years the breeding ponds dried up before the larvae could metamorphose into juveniles that are capable of surviving out of water. CDFW and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service salvaged hundreds of larvae on a property jointly managed by the two agencies. The salamanders were raised in captivity and released back at the site after restoration was completed. Follow-up monitoring is ongoing.
  • In the San Joaquin Valley, biologists are working with UC Berkeley, Humboldt State University and other organizations to save the giant kangaroo rat, a keystone species that serves as prey or provides habitat for several other listed animals. Kangaroo rats do not require direct water and get what they need from seeds. After several years without precipitation, seed availability was diminished and the population plummeted. As a result, the threatened and endangered San Joaquin kit fox is also struggling because their primary prey is disappearing. Researchers are studying population responses to food resource availability to determine how best to intervene to save these species.

California has more native species and the greatest number of endemic species than any other state in the nation with approximately 68 amphibian species, 85 reptile species, 429 bird species and 185 mammal species, many that occur nowhere else in the world. Identifying and saving at risk wildlife will secure the future for other populations in the years to come.

View the full report.

Media Contact:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

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CDFW Awards $16.7 Million to Fisheries Habitat Restoration, Forest Legacy and Drought Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 67 projects that will receive funding for coastal salmon and steelhead habitat restoration, response to the statewide drought and forest legacy restoration.

The grants, which total $16,720,061, are distributed through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP) and include approximately $661,000 awarded to drought restoration projects, $2.5 million awarded for timber legacy restoration projects and $13.4 million for anadromous salmonid restoration projects. FRGP monies come from a combination of state sources and the federal Pacific Coast Salmon Restoration Fund.
 

In response to the February 2015 FRGP solicitation, CDFW received 143 proposals requesting more than $45 million in funding. The drought solicitation was subsequently released in June and 25 proposals were received requesting approximately $2.5 million. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review and those that passed were evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists. 

The 67 approved projects will further the objectives of the state and federal recovery plans, including removing barriers to fish migration, restoring riparian habitat, monitoring of listed populations, and creating a more resilient and sustainably managed water resources system (e.g., water supply, water quality and habitat) that can better withstand drought conditions. These projects further the goals of California’s Water Action Plan and CDFW’s recently approved and awarded State Wildlife Action Plan. 

The list of approved projects can be found on the FRGP website.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Patty Forbes, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 327-8840
Kevin Shaffer, 
CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8841

 

Public Meeting to be Held on Proposed Closure of Part of Sacramento River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is holding a public meeting to solicit comments on a proposed emergency fishing closure of 5.5 miles of the Sacramento River above the Highway 44 Bridge in Redding to the Keswick Dam. CDFW has determined this closure is necessary to protect endangered winter-run Chinook salmon. The anticipated dates of closure are April 1 through July 31.

The meeting will be held Friday, Jan. 29, from 4-5:30 p.m. at the Redding Public Library, 1100 Parkview Ave., Redding (96001).

“Because of the drought, we had to close the river last year to save as many of these fish as possible,” said Lt. Richard Wharton, CDFW Law Enforcement supervisor in Redding. “The great news is we had widespread cooperation from Shasta County anglers, who clearly demonstrated they care about this dwindling species.”

CDFW is proposing a complete fishing closure in this critical holding and spawning area to ensure added protection for the federal and state endangered winter-run Chinook, which face high risk of extinction. Given the gravity of the current situation, it is imperative that each and every adult fish be given maximum protection. Current regulations do not allow fishing for Chinook, but incidental catch by anglers who are targeting trout could occur.

An additional measure taken was an agreement with the city of Redding to reduce the amount of artificial light from the Sundial Bridge during the critical stages of salmon migration. The bright lights were causing the fish to stop their journey at the bridge; by dimming the lights, city officials removed the deterrent while still sufficiently illuminating the bridge for tourists.

“We appreciate the city stepping up to help conservation efforts by lowering the lights on one of the city’s most popular attractions,” said Neil Manji, CDFW Northern Region Manager. “In our studies we found that once the light levels came down, the fish immediately swam under the bridge on their way to the sea.”

This reach is the principal winter-run Chinook spawning area during these extraordinary drought conditions. An estimated 98 percent of 2014 and 2015 in-river spawning occurred in the 5.5 mile stretch under consideration for closure. This section represents only 10 percent of the waters currently open to fishing upstream of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam.

In 2014 and 2015, approximately 95 percent of eggs and young winter-run Chinook were lost due to elevated river temperatures. Given current drought conditions, it is likely the 2016-year eggs and young salmon will again be subject to extremely trying conditions.

CDFW is tasked by the Governor to work with the California Fish and Game Commission to determine whether fishing restrictions in certain areas are necessary and prudent as drought conditions persist. The proposed closure is also in accordance with the state and federal Endangered Species Acts.