Category Archives: Endangered Species

Tax Donations Help to Prevent Wildlife Extinction

Extinction is forever, but you and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) can join forces to prevent it. Help save California’s native plant and animal species when you file your state income tax return by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESPP) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund.

Just enter any dollar amount you wish on line 403 for rare and endangered species and on line 410 for southern sea otters. Money donated by California’s taxpayers supports programs that benefit these at-risk species.

“Taxpayers’ donations make more of a positive difference than one might think,” CDFW Wildlife Branch Chief T.O. Smith said. “Voluntary contributions also help CDFW acquire federal matching funds, increasing the actions we can take for threatened and endangered species and their habitat.”

California has 219 species of plants and 83 species of animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat. Endangered species face many different threats, such as the unprecedented tree die-off occurring in the Sierra Nevada mountains due to a combination of past forest management practices, warming climate, severe drought and bark beetles capitalizing on the dying trees.

Past donations to the RESPP have enabled biologists to analyze data on the Tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor) – North America’s most highly colonial land bird – to assess factors that may be affecting the species’ ability to survive and reproduce. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s Tricolored blackbird population lives within the State of California and statewide surveys have revealed that the species has declined by more than 60 percent in the past decade.

CDFW has been working with multiple stakeholders to study the current distribution and status of the Giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas) – a highly aquatic threatened species – and to improve habitat suitability and stability in areas hardest hit by the drought.

Staff have participated in the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense) Science Advisory Committee’s efforts to recover the threatened species, beginning with tackling the issue of how to reduce their hybridization with non-native tiger salamanders.

CDFW is in the final stages of completing a conservation strategy for the state-listed Mohave ground squirrel (Xerospermophilus mohavensis), which will guide conservation and research projects to help ensure recovery of the species.

With the assistance of biologists from other agencies, CDFW biologists have been monitoring endangered Desert pupfish (Cyprinodon macularius) populations and water quality in natural and artificial habitats. Pupfish have been rescued from natural habitats that have dried during summer months and have been relocated to other areas. Recovery actions have included identification of habitat in need of restoration.

RESPP funds supported the review of Livermore tarplant (Deinandra bacigalupii), which informed the Fish and Game Commission’s decision to protect the species under the California Endangered Species Act. Funds were also used to monitor several endangered plant species, including the critically endangered Slender-petaled mustard (Thelypodium stenopetalum), found only near Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains.

The past five drought years have put endangered species at even greater risk as rivers and creeks have been impacted and seasonal and some permanent aquatic habitats dried up. CDFW has documented extremely low numbers and/or reproductive rates for winter-run Chinook Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha), Delta Smelt (Hypomesus transpacificus), Mohave ground squirrel, Giant kangaroo rat (Dipodomys ingens), Giant garter snake, Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum; drought rescue story on our website), California tiger salamander and Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog (Rana sierrae), among others.

There is no upper limit to voluntary contributions; any dollar amount is welcome. These plants and animals are part of our heritage and need your support to survive and thrive.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy. CDFW’s half supports scientific research on the causes of mortality in sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis). In addition to working on a large analysis of 15 years of mortality data, CDFW scientists are conducting research on little-known viruses, parasites and biotoxins that may be harming sea otters. Through a better understanding of the causes of mortality, it may be possible to work more effectively to recover the sea otter population here. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and “fully protected” by the State of California.

“This voluntary contribution program provides important funding for understanding sea otter health and implementing programs to help recover the Southern sea otter population,” said CDFW Sea Otter Program Manager Laird Henkel. “Our team and collaborators are currently in the final stages of summarizing 15 years of sea otter post-mortem investigations, largely supported by this tax check-off program. We’re excited that we’ll have this information to share later this year.”

CDFW is also collaborating with Friends of the Sea Otter and others on the ‘Sea Otter Savvy’ program. Also supported primarily by tax check-off contributions, this program is designed to reduce human disturbance to sea otters.

In 2016, $5,000 of the fund was offered as part of a larger reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person(s) who shot four sea otters near Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, CDFW has not yet received such information.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the RESPP on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

green and brown plant with small yellow flowers in a gold field of dead grass and weeds
Livermore tarplant, of the sunflower family, only exists in a few locations in Alameda County. Jeb Bjerke/CDFW photo
A brown and yellow-striped giant garter snake in grass and dirt
Giant garter snake. Courtesy of Eric Hansen
A California tiger salamander, brown with yellow spots, standing in mud
California tiger salamander. Courtesy of Jack Goldfarb Photography
Two sea otters with head and shoulders visible ablve water
California sea otters

Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Russ Bellmer, Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8850
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Volunteers Needed for Bighorn Sheep Survey

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), U.S. Forest Service (USFS) and Society for the Conservation of Bighorn Sheep (SCBS) are seeking volunteers to assist biologists on Feb. 25 and 26, 2017 (Saturday evening and all day Sunday).

No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend an orientation on Saturday, Feb. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia.

Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from CDFW, USFS or SCBS. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although most survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.

Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase, with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

Volunteers can sign up online at www.sangabrielbighorn.org or call (909) 584-9012 to request a volunteer packet.

CDFW Awards $40 Million for Ecosystem and Watershed Restoration and Protection Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced that it is awarding $40 million in Proposition 1 funds for water quality, river and watershed protection, and restoration projects for vital waterways throughout California.

In the second of ten planned annual grant cycles, CDFW has selected 44 projects to receive funding from its Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Prop 1) Restoration Grant Programs. The awards, totaling $40 million, include approximately $28 million awarded through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program to projects of statewide importance outside of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and approximately $12 million awarded through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program to projects that directly benefit the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

“In year two of our Prop 1 grant program we continue to support on-the-ground actions that meet the objectives of the California Water Action Plan, as well as planning activities that set the stage for future restoration statewide,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “We have made great progress in the first two grant cycles and we cannot wait to get more multi-benefit projects done throughout the state.”

Each of these multi-benefit projects addresses the priorities outlined in the 2016 Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs Solicitation and the California Water Action Plan. Priorities include: Protecting and restoring mountain meadow ecosystems, managing headwaters for multiple benefits, protecting and restoring anadromous fish habitat, and protecting and restoring coastal wetland ecosystems.

Projects approved for funding through the Watershed Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Lost Coast Redwood and Salmon Initiative Phase 2 (2016) – Indian Creek Conservation Easement ($1,400,00 to Northcoast Regional Land Trust);
  • Humboldt Bay Regional Invasive Spartina Eradication Project ($450,000 to Redwood Community Action Agency);
  • Modoc Plateau Meadows Assessment and Restoration Design Project ($253,309 to California Trout, Inc.);
  • Dry Creek Meadow Restoration ($290,000 to Truckee River Watershed Council);
  • Stanford-Vina Fish Passage Planning and Design Project ($418,408 to Trout Unlimited);
  • San Vicente Creek Watershed Clematis vitalba Control Project ($1,141,555 to Sempervirens Fund);
  • Carman Watershed Restoration Project, Phase II ($589,732 to Sierra Valley Resource Conservation District);
  • Lagunitas Creek Floodplain and Riparian Restoration Project ($935,467 to Salmon Protection and Watershed Network);
  • Napa River Restoration Oakville to Oak Knoll Project ($200,000 to Napa County Department of Public Works);
  • Protecting and Restoring Wilderness Meadows in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks ($86,340 to American Rivers);
  • Oroville Wildlife Area Flood Stage Reduction and Restoration Project ($2,509,700 to Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency);
  • Dennett Dam Removal ($363,183 to Tuolumne River Trust);
  • Marshall Ranch Conservation Easement – 2016 ($5,012,125 to California Rangeland Trust);
  • Middle Branch of Russian Gulch – Forbearance Agreement/Conservation Easement ($400,000 to Sonoma Land Trust);
  • Matilija Dam Removal 65 Percent Design Planning Project ($3,300,504 to County of Ventura);
  • A Watershed Approach to Enhancing Habitat for Salmonids in the San Lorenzo River Watershed ($705,094 to Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County);
  • Green Valley Watershed Coho Migration Enhancement Project – Design Phase ($376,895 to North Coast Resource Conservation and Development Council);
  • McInnis Marsh Restoration Project ($550,000 to Marin County Parks);
  • South Canal Diversion Fish Screen ($829,129 to Yuba County Water Agency);
  • Thompson Meadow Restoration and Water Budget Evaluation Project ($196,784 to Plumas Corporation);
  • Freshwater Creek Off-Channel Habitat Restoration Project-Regulatory Compliance ($124,701 to Redwood Community Action Agency);
  • Mill Creek Barrier Removal and Riparian Restoration Project in Talmage ($383,939 to Mendocino County Resource Conservation District);
  • Non-Natal Habitat Enhancement Planning For ESA-Listed Salmonids in the Humboldt Bay Watershed ($179,316 to Pacific Coast Fish, Wildlife and Wetlands Restoration Association);
  • Van Norden Meadow Restoration Project ($1,108,657 to South Yuba River Citizens League);
  • Laguna-Mark West Creek Watershed Master Restoration Planning Project ($517,000 to Sonoma County Water Agency);
  • CICC Packer Ranch Fish Screen Project and Pump Station Upgrade ($467,611 to Family Water Alliance, Inc.);
  • Fish Passage Design at Interstate 5 Bridge Array on Trabuco Creek ($383,890 to California Trout, Inc.);
  • Salmon River Floodplain Restoration Planning and NEPA Analysis ($225,340 to Salmon River Restoration Council);
  • Grayson Restoration Planning ($188,679 to River Partners);
  • Planning for Priority Meadow Restoration in Lahontan Basin Watersheds ($346,352 to American Rivers);
  • DCWC Lower Deer Creek Flood and Ecosystem Improvement Project, Phase 1 ($1,950,289 to Deer Creek Watershed Conservancy);
  • Rancho Cañada Carmel River Protection and Instream Flow Enhancement Project ($1,450,000 to Monterey Peninsula Regional Park District);
  • Developing Restoration Strategies for Hydrologic Connectivity in Williams Creek ($291,594 to Humboldt County Resource Conservation District);
  • Restoration of Priority Meadows in the Walker Watershed ($235,757 to American Rivers);
  • Cottonwood Canyon Acquisition Project ($507,000 to Arroyos and Foothills Conservancy);
  • Auburn Ravine-Hemphill Diversion Assessment Phase 2 ($177,042 to Nevada Irrigation District); and
  • Hat Creek Enhancement Project – 2016 ($196,564 to Fall River Resource Conservation District).

Projects approved for funding through the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program include:

  • Paradise Cut Flood and Conservation Easement Acquisition ($2,035,000 to American Rivers);
  • Contaminant Effects on Two California Fish Species and the Food Web That Supports Them ($1,701,829 to The Regents of the University of California, Davis, School of Veterinary Medicine);
  • Impact of Spatial and Temporal Dynamics of Water Flows on Migratory Behavior of Chinook Salmon Smolts in the South Delta ($1,510,723 to Regents of the University of California, Davis, Agriculture and Natural Resources);
  • Investigating the Factors that Affect Age-0 Longfin Smelt Abundance, Distribution, and Recruitment in the Upper SF Estuary ($330,811 to Metropolitan Water District of Southern California);
  • Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Habitat and Drainage Improvement Project Construction ($4,852,766 to Ducks Unlimited);
  • Impact of Climate Variability on Surface Water Quality: Cyanobacteria and Contaminants ($891,341 to The Regents of the University of California, Davis, Aquatic Toxicology Program); and
  • Lower Walnut Creek Restoration Project ($537,457 to Contra Costa County Flood Control and Water Conservation District).

CDFW plans to release the next Prop 1 solicitation in late spring or early summer 2017. Prior to its release, CDFW will host a series of workshops to engage potential project proponents. CDFW hopes to provide additional outreach to certain regions of the state that have submitted fewer proposals, particularly in Southern California.

At that time, general information about CDFW’s Proposition 1 Restoration Grant Programs, as well as a schedule of locations and dates for workshops will be available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/grants.

Funding for these projects comes from the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act 2014 (Proposition 1) bond funds, a portion of which are allocated annually through the California State Budget Act. More information about Proposition 1 can be found here.

Media Contacts:
Matt Wells, Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 445-1285
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

CDFW Wildlife Officers Crack Down on Ivory Trafficking

Investigations by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have culminated in illegal trafficking of wildlife cases pending in Los Angeles and Alameda counties, and in San Francisco.

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In recent weeks, CDFW’s Wildlife Trafficking Team worked three separate investigations:

  • CDFW wildlife officers intercepted and seized 377 items of jewelry containing pieces labeled as mammoth ivory at an air cargo terminal in Los Angeles, following a report from U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) inspectors regarding the unlawful commercial importation. The ivory was shipped from Indonesia into California. Criminal charges will be recommended to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office for the suspected violations.
  • CDFW wildlife officers and USFWS inspectors intercepted a shipment of three boxes from Indonesia containing 116 items made of python skin. The items included large and small purses, large bags and a variety of wallets. Like ivory and rhinoceros horn, it is unlawful to import into California for commercial purposes the dead body or parts of a python. The items were seized, and criminal charges will be recommended to the Alameda County District Attorney’s office for the suspected violations.
  • Wildlife officers also worked with the San Francisco District Attorney’s office to crackdown on illicit trafficking of ivory and rhinoceros horn in San Francisco. Wildlife officers inspected several businesses in San Francisco and found two with significant violations. Wildlife officers seized a solid bone pagoda and a rhinoceros horn bracelet at one location. At another location they seized 18 statuettes ranging from 15 to 26 inches containing suspected pieces of ivory and 37 statuettes ranging in size from one-half inch to six inches suspected to be made entirely from ivory. They also seized suspected whale teeth, two ivory chess sets and two carved tusks labeled as mammoth ivory. The total value of the seized items from the San Francisco operation is estimated at over $500,000. Criminal charges will be recommended to the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office for the suspected violations.

CDFW wildlife officers have submitted formal complaints to prosecutors in San Francisco and Los Angeles and Alameda counties.  Prosecutors will determine whether charges will be filed.  No arrests have been made to date.

A law banning the sale of nearly all ivory in the state of California took effect July 1, 2016. The ban, which can be found in California Fish and Game Code, section 2022, encompasses teeth and tusks of elephant, hippopotamus, mammoth, mastodon, walrus, warthog, whale and narwhal, as well as rhinoceros horn, regardless of whether it is raw, worked or powdered, or from a store or a private collection. Under the law, advertising the sale of any items containing ivory is also strictly prohibited. The legislation helped fund the team of CDFW officers to focus on ivory, rhinoceros horn and other wildlife trafficking, including training and laboratory capability for evidence analysis.

“Under Governor Brown’s leadership, laws to combat illegal wildlife trafficking have been substantially strengthened,” said David Bess, Chief of CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division. “The creation of our Wildlife Trafficking Team and enhancement of our laboratory and legal staff are important steps in stopping the epidemic of poaching and trafficking of wildlife in California and around the world. This effort by our wildlife officers demonstrates that the black market trafficking of wildlife in California will not be tolerated. We stand ready beside our federal and state partners, as well as District Attorneys across the state to take these poachers and traffickers out of business.”

Under the new law, raw ivory and most crafted items that include ivory may no longer be purchased, sold or possessed with the intent to sell, with limited exceptions, including the following:

  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a bona fide antique (with historical documentation showing the antique is at least 100 years old) provided the item is less than five percent ivory or rhino horn by volume;
  • Ivory or rhino horn that is part of a musical instrument (with documentation of pre-1975 construction) provided the instrument contains less than 20 percent ivory or rhino horn by volume; and
  • Activities expressly authorized by federal law, or federal exemptions or permits.

Although the sale of ivory and elephant parts has been illegal in California since 1977, the new law closed a loophole that allowed the continued sale of ivory that was imported into the state before 1977. The sale of ivory, rhino horn or products that contain ivory will be a misdemeanor, punishable by fines up to $50,000 and one year of incarceration.

Media Contacts:
Lt. Chris Stoots, CDFW Law Enforcement, (916) 651-9982

Public Review Period Extended for Newhall Ranch Additional Environmental Analysis

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has extended the public comment and review period for the previously released Draft Additional Environmental Analysis (AEA) for the Newhall Ranch Resource Management and Development Plan and Spineflower Conservation Plan (RMDP/SCP) Final Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

CDFW previously released the Draft AEA for public circulation, review and comment between Nov. 3, 2016 and Jan. 6, 2017. The review period will now extend to Feb. 13, 2017.

CDFW certified the RMDP/SCP EIR in December 2010 in connection with various approvals under the Fish and Game Code for the Newhall Ranch project, which is located in northern Los Angeles County.  A detailed description of the project as a whole, as well as CDFW’s related approval documents and findings adopted by CDFW, can be found here. A description of the project as modified is included in the Draft AEA.

As stated in CDFW’s related notice on Nov. 3, 2016, CDFW prepared the Draft AEA in response to two important issues recently addressed by the California Supreme Court in relation to the project and the RMDP/SCP EIR specifically. The Court held that: (1) for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, that CDFW’s 2010 significance determination regarding project greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions was not supported by substantial evidence, and (2) CDFW’s approval of the project in 2010 with two biological resource mitigation measures calling, if necessary, for collection and relocation of unarmored threespine stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus williamsoni), violated Fish and Game Code, section 5515.

Unarmored threespine stickleback is a freshwater fish native to California. It has been designated as endangered by federal and state law, and is fully protected under the Fish and Game Code.

The Draft AEA can be downloaded at www.wildlife.ca.gov/regions/5/newhall/DraftAEA. Copies on CD may also be requested by sending an email to newhallranch@wildlife.ca.gov.

Copies of the Draft AEA are available for public review at CDFW’s South Coast Regional Office at the Ruffin Road address, as well as the following locations:

  • Old Town Newhall Library, 24500 Main Street, Santa Clarita (91321)
  • Stevenson Ranch Library, 25950 The Old Road, Stevenson Ranch (91381)
  • Valencia Library, 23743 West Valencia Boulevard, Santa Clarita (91355)
  • Sylmar Library, 14561 Polk Street, Sylmar (91342)
  • E.P. Foster Library, 651 East Main Street, Ventura (93001)
  • Castaic Library, 27971 Sloan Canyon Road, Castaic (91384)
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife, 4665 Lampson Ave., Los Alamitos (90702)
  • Department of Fish and Wildlife Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, 1700 Ninth St., second floor, Sacramento (95811)

Public comments must be limited to issues addressed in the Draft AEA, and must be postmarked or received by email no later than Feb. 13, 2017.

Comments sent to CDFW by regular mail should be sent to the following address:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Comments on Newhall Ranch Draft AEA
c/o Betty Courtney
3883 Ruffin Road
San Diego, CA  92123

Comments may also be emailed to CDFW at newhallranch@wildlife.ca.gov. Please put “Comments on Newhall Ranch Draft AEA” in the subject line.

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