Harmon Oak Creek

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Nov. 21 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $28.7 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 27 approved projects will benefit fish and wildlife — including some endangered species — while others will provide public 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, landowners and the local community.

Funding for these projects comes from a combination of sources including the Habitat Conservation Fund and bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Funded projects include:

  • A $675,000 grant to the Lake County Land Trust to acquire approximately 200 acres of land for the protection of shoreline freshwater wetland, riparian woodland and wet meadow habitats that support the state threatened Clear Lake hitch along with the western pond turtle, a state species of special concern, and also provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities. The land is located on the southwestern shore of Clear Lake in an area known as Big Valley in Lake County.
  • A $329,400 grant to Pollinator Partnership for a cooperative project with Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bowles Farming, Inc., Monarch Joint Venture, Gabel Farm Land Co., Inc. and Namakan West Fisheries to enhance and monitor pollinator habitat located on three privately owned project sites within 10 miles of Los Banos in Merced County.
  • A $562,210 grant to San Bernardino County Transportation Authority for a cooperative project with San Bernardino Council of Governments to develop and complete a final draft of the San Bernardino County Regional Conservation Investment Strategy covering two subareas, the Valley subarea and West Desert subarea, and the Mountain region located in San Bernardino County.
  • Approval of $775,000 for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to acquire approximately 87 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species, to preserve biological communities supporting sensitive species, to enhance wildlife linkages and provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities as an expansion of CDFW’s McGinty Mountain Ecological Reserve located near the community of Jamul in San Diego County.
  • A $2.57 million grant to Trout Unlimited for a cooperative project with the Mendocino Railway, the Mendocino Land Trust and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to restore access to 1.15 miles of steelhead and salmon habitat and reduce in-stream sediment upstream of where the California Western Railway crosses the upper Noyo River in Mendocino County.
  • A $1.4 million grant to Truckee Donner Land Trust to acquire, in fee, approximately 633 acres located near Truckee in Nevada County to help preserve alpine forests, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities.
  • A $2.98 million grant to the California Tahoe Conservancy for a cooperative project with CDFW, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and U.S. Forest Service to restore 261 acres of wetland habitat owned by the California Tahoe Conservancy in South Lake Tahoe in El Dorado County.
  • An $885,500 grant to Save the Redwoods League for a cooperative project with Peninsula Open Space Trust and Sempervirens Fund to restore 552 acres of redwood and upland hardwood forests in the Deadman Gulch Restoration Reserve portion of the San Vicente Redwoods property situated in Santa Cruz County.
  • A $719,000 grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. for a cooperative project with the landowners and Audubon California to enhance wetlands that provide Tricolored Blackbird nesting habitat and waterfowl breeding habitat, located on privately owned land in Kern County.
  • A $3 million grant to Ventura Land Trust to acquire, in fee, approximately 2,118 acres of land for the protection of threatened and endangered species, and provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities, located five miles east of the city of Ventura in Ventura County.
  • A $4.9 million grant to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to acquire, in fee, approximately 257 acres of land for the preservation of oak woodland and grassland habitat, wildlife corridors and habitat linkages, and to provide future wildlife-oriented, public use opportunities, located in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County.
  • A $1.4 million grant to the Council for Watershed Health for a cooperative project with the city of Los Angeles, the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project, the Friends of the Los Angeles River and the Arroyo Seco Foundation for a planning project to provide designs, permits and environmental review for addressing impaired mobility for southern steelhead trout and other native fish along 4.4 miles of the Los Angeles River in downtown Los Angeles.

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

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Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, WCB Executive Director, (916) 445-0137
Amanda McDermott, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8907

 

First White Abalone Release Marks Major Milestone for Species Facing Extinction

A career dedicated to mollusks isn’t always easy. Sometimes progress can occur at a snail’s pace.

But a team of scientists are close to reaching a significant milestone in their efforts to bring white abalone — a species of sea snail — back from the brink of extinction.

During the week of Nov. 18, thousands of white abalone hatched in a marine lab will be planted in the ocean near Los Angeles and San Diego. It will be the first time that scientists attempt to introduce captive-bred white abalone into the wild.

“It’s thrilling to think that our hard work is going to pay off as far as putting juvenile white abalone in the wild and setting them free,” said California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) co-lead researcher Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett.

California’s abalone population has been decimated by a combination of commercial overfishing, ocean warming and poor kelp growth. White abalone, sought by divers because of its tender meat, was hit especially hard. The declines resulted in a 1997 ban on all recreational and commercial abalone fishing south of San Francisco, and in 2001 white abalone became the first marine invertebrate to be listed as an endangered species.

It’s been almost two decades since Dr. Rogers-Bennett and her team have found a live juvenile white abalone in the wild.

“Captive breeding might be the only way this population can recover,” she said.

From 1999 to 2004, a team of divers including Dr. Rogers-Bennett and co-lead researcher Ian Taniguchi collected 21 white abalone from the deep reefs in the Channel Islands. Those 21 abalone ultimately led to the production of thousands of offspring at the Bodega Marine Laboratory at University of California, Davis (UC Davis).

CDFW estimates there are only 2,400 wild white abalone living in the ocean off California’s coast. They plan to plant more than 3,000 during the week of Nov. 18.

“It’s a huge milestone, but it’s also just the beginning,” said Taniguchi. “We hope this will be the first of many successful outplants aimed at reestablishing a self-sustaining wild population.”

CDFW is grateful to its many conservation partners for their collaboration on this project including the UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, The Bay Foundation and Aquarium of the Pacific. This project would not have been possible without significant funding provided by NOAA through its Section 6 grant program.

Media Contacts:

Ken Paglia, CDFW Communications, (916) 825-7120

Dr. Laura Rogers-Bennett, Senior Env. Scientist, (707) 875-2035

Paiute Cutthroat Trout Reintroduced to Native Habitat in High Sierra Wilderness

California’s native Paiute cutthroat trout, the rarest trout in North America, swims once again in its high Sierra home waters for the first time in more than 100 years.

California Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Director Charlton H. Bonham and representatives from the USDA Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Golden Gate Chapter of Trout Unlimited and Little Antelope Pack Station joined biologists to release 30 Paiute cutthroat trout of varying sizes into Silver King Creek in Alpine County, Calif., Sept. 18, 2019.

“You’ve got to celebrate good times. That’s what we’re doing here today,” said CDFW’s Bonham from the banks of Silver King Creek within the remote Carson-Iceberg Wilderness area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest. “If you forget to celebrate, you’re overlooking a remarkable success story – bringing these fish back home and celebrating a better California.”

Not since the early 1900s have genetically pure Paiute cutthroat trout occupied the 11-mile stretch of Silver King Creek between Llewellyn Falls and Snodgrass Creek that represents almost the entirety of the fish’s historic range.

“This is a lifetime achievement for those working to recover the rarest trout in North America,” said Lee Ann Carranza, acting field supervisor for the USFWS Reno office. “This remarkable partnership has allowed Paiute cutthroat trout to be returned to their entire native range without threat from non-natives.”

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The Paiute cutthroat trout was one of the first animals in the nation listed as endangered in 1967 under the federal Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966, now known as the Endangered Species Act. In 1975, the species was downlisted to federally threatened to allow for a special rule that would facilitate management of the species by the State of California.

A small native range, habitat degraded by historic sheep and cattle grazing, and competition from and hybridization with non-native trout introduced into Silver King Creek threatened the species with extinction.

Only a fortuitous turn of events saved the species from disappearing altogether. In the early 1900s, Basque sheepherders moved some of the fish outside of their native range, upstream of Llewellyn Falls. The waterfalls served as a barrier to the non-native trout below and safeguarded a genetically pure population of Paiute cutthroat trout above the falls, providing government agencies and advocates the chance to recover the species in the future.

Efforts to save and restore the species have spanned several decades and involved removing non-native fish and restocking Paiute cutthroat trout from source populations.  Recreational fishing was closed within the Silver King Creek drainage in 1934. Later, grazing allotments were administratively closed so habitat could be restored.

At one time, only two small tributaries above Llewellyn Falls held genetically pure Paiute cutthroat trout. CDFW, the Forest Service and USFWS transferred some of these fish to other fishless, protected streams within the Silver King Creek watershed as well as four watersheds outside of the basin to create additional refuge populations to stave off extinction.

The effort to reintroduce Paiute cutthroat trout back into their historic home – the 11-mile main reach of Silver King Creek – began in 1994 when CDFW biologists explored Silver King Canyon and identified a series of waterfalls that served as historic barriers to upstream fish migration, isolating the Paiute cutthroat trout. The barriers could once again insulate Paiute cutthroat trout from encroachment from non-native trout if the non-native trout in Silver King Creek could be removed.

Wildlife officials prevailed over a decade of legal challenges to treat Silver King Creek and its tributaries with rotenone, a natural fish poison, to eliminate non-native trout and prepare Silver King Creek for the eventual return of Paiute cutthroats.

Silver King Creek and its tributaries were chemically treated from 2013 to 2015. State and federal partners monitored the creek for three years following the treatment to make sure all non-native fish were removed. Wildfires, floods and drought over the decades further complicated recovery efforts.

“The commitment of Forest Service, CDFW, USFWS, Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board, Trout Unlimited Golden Gate Chapter and Little Antelope Pack Station to move this project forward in the face of numerous challenges has been incredible,” said Bill Dunkelberger, Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest supervisor. “A project of this magnitude that took over several decades could not have been completed without state, federal and other partners working tirelessly together.”

The fish reintroduced into Silver King Creek on the afternoon of Sept. 18 were collected that morning from a source population in Coyote Valley Creek about 2 miles away and transported by mules to the banks of Silver King Creek. The fish were deposited into buckets filled with water from Silver King Creek to acclimate for several minutes before being released among cheers and applause – and a few tears – by biologists and others, some of whom have spent decades working toward the historic homecoming.

Restoring Paiute cutthroat trout to their native Silver King Creek nearly doubles the amount of habitat available to the fish and is considered key to their long-term survival and potential delisting.

Monitoring of the reintroduced fish and additional restocking of Paiute cutthroat trout into Silver King Creek from other refuge populations is planned in future years to aid genetic diversity and introduce different age classes into the creek to help natural reproduction.

Photos and video of the Sept. 18 reintroduction are available here: ftp://ftp.wildlife.ca.gov/OCEO/Paiute%20Cutthroat%20Trout/

San Bernardino kangaroo rat

CDFW Seeks Information Related to San Bernardino Kangaroo Rat

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking information relevant to a proposal to list the San Bernardino kangaroo rat (Dipodomys merriami parvus) as an endangered species under the California Endangered Species Act.

In March 2019, the Endangered Habitats League submitted a petition to the California Fish and Game Commission to formally list the San Bernardino kangaroo rat as endangered under the California Endangered Species Act. The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation described a variety of threats to the survival of the species in California. These include direct and indirect impacts associated with habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, habitat degradation, small and fragmented subpopulations, loss of ecological processes maintaining habitat suitability, low genetic diversity and climate change. CDFW recommended and the Commission voted to advance the species to candidacy on Aug. 7, 2019. The Commission published findings of this decision on Aug. 23, 2019, triggering a 12-month period during which CDFW will conduct a status review to inform the Commission’s decision on whether to list the species.

As part of the status review process, CDFW is soliciting information from the public regarding the San Bernardino kangaroo rat’s ecology, genetics, life history, distribution, abundance, habitat, the degree and immediacy of threats to reproduction or survival, adequacy of existing management and recommendations for management of the species. Comments, data and other information can be submitted in writing to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attn: Scott Osborn
1812 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95811

Comments may also be submitted by email to wildlifemgt@wildlife.ca.gov. If submitting comments by email, please include “SBKR” in the subject heading.

All comments received by Sept. 27, 2019 will be evaluated prior to submittal of the CDFW status review report to the Commission. Receipt of the report will be placed on the agenda for the next available meeting of the Commission after delivery and the report will be made available to the public at that time. Following the receipt of the CDFW report, the Commission will allow a 30-day public comment period prior to taking any action on CDFW’s recommendation.

The listing petition and CDFW’s petition evaluation for the kangaroo rat is available at
https://fgc.ca.gov/cesa#sbkr.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 324-3564
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

CDFW Steps in to Protect Animals at Wildlife Waystation

On August 11, 2019, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) was notified by the Wildlife Waystation, a wild animal refuge that houses exotic and domestic animals in Sylmar, that their Board of Directors had voted to surrender the facility’s CDFW permit voluntarily and to close the facility. CDFW has implemented an incident command structure to handle daily operations and assist with the placement of animals.Wildlife Waystation 2

As of this morning, CDFW is on site, actively ensuring that daily operations remain smooth at the facility, and is working with animal welfare organizations to place the animals into other facilities. CDFW will maintain oversight of the facility until all animals are placed appropriately.

CDFW’s primary concern is for the health and welfare of the animals. CDFW is working collaboratively with Wildlife Waystation staff to ensure the best possible care during this transition.

The Wildlife Waystation was founded in 1976 and has been operating with a current permit issued by CDFW. The aging facility was extensively damaged in the 2017 Creek Fire and again in flooding in early 2019. Wildlife Waystation leadership is unable to repair the facility to current standards.

Media and the public are asked to please refrain from traveling to the property. The property is closed until further notice and access will not be granted. There is very limited road access and no cellular reception.

CDFW is contacting its network of local and national animal welfare organizations both for assistance and expertise in care of the animals as well as assistance in finding permanent placement for the more than 470 animals at the facility.

CDFW Deputy Director Jordan Traverso will be available for media interviews at the command center at the Hanson Dam Ranger Station at 10965 Dronfield Ave., Sylmar, Calif. until 3:30 p.m. She can also be reached at (916) 654-9937.

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