Category Archives: Habitat Conservation

Invasive New Zealand Mudsnails Found in Carmel River – Residents and Visitors Urged to Help Prevent Further Spread

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has confirmed the presence of New Zealand mudsnails in Monterey County’s Carmel River.

The highly invasive, nonnative snails have been detected by the Monterey Peninsula Water Management District at multiple locations in the lower river, including near the Highway 1 crossing, the Valley Greens Drive bridge, and Mid Valley nearly 8 miles upstream from the mouth of the river at the Carmel River State Beach along the Pacific Ocean. No mudsnails were found in locations upriver from Red Rock to the base of Los Padres Dam.

CDFW urges visitors and those in the community to “clean, drain and dry” all recreational and fishing gear in order to prevent the further spread of the snails. It is illegal to import, possess or transport the mudsnails without a permit and offenders can be cited.

Despite their small size, New Zealand mudsnails are a problematic aquatic species. Only 4 to 6 millimeters long on average, dense populations of New Zealand mudsnails can displace and out-compete native species, sometimes by consuming up to half the food resources in a waterway. The snails have been linked to reduced populations of aquatic insects, including mayflies, stoneflies, caddisflies, chironomids and other insect groups upon which trout and steelhead populations depend.

The Carmel River is home to a fragile population of threatened steelhead listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. Boaters, anglers and others who may visit the Carmel River, within or outside infested areas, are asked to decontaminate their equipment and follow the “clean, drain and dry” best practices with all equipment used in the river:

  • If you wade, freeze waders and other gear overnight (at least six hours).
  • After leaving the water, inspect waders, boots, float tubes, paddleboards, kayaks or any gear used in the water. Remove any visible snails with a stiff brush and follow with rinsing. If possible, freeze or completely dry out any wet gear.
  • Never transport live fish or other aquatic plants or animals from one body of water to another.

An informational flier on the “clean, drain and dry” directive is available for download at https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=3866&inline.

To date, low numbers of New Zealand mudsnails have been identified in two other locations in Monterey County (the Salinas and San Antonio rivers).

In the coming weeks, CDFW will launch a public outreach and education effort, including distribution of information cards, brochures and signage posted at the Carmel River State Beach and at other access points along the Carmel River.

For more information on the New Zealand mudsnail, please visit CDFW’s Invasive Species website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Invasives/Species/NZmudsnail.

The current distribution of mudsnails in California and throughout the United States can be viewed at the U.S. Geological Survey’s interactive map, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/viewer/omap.aspx?SpeciesID=1008.

Media Contact:
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project Draft EIR Released

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife released the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for the Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project. CDFW is the lead agency for the DEIR.

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CDFW, in partnership with the State Coastal Conservancy and The Bay Foundation, has spent years working with the public and envisioning a plan for the revitalization of the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (BWER). The Ballona Wetlands were once a 2,000-acre expanse of marshes, mud flats, salt pans and sand dunes that stretched from Playa del Rey to Venice and inland to the Baldwin Hills. Today, BWER is 600 acres of open space that remains of the former wetlands and is owned by CDFW.

Today’s release of the DEIR opens a 60-day public comment period that is scheduled to end on Nov. 24, 2017. A public meeting is scheduled for early November. Information on where to send comments as well as detailed information about the public hearing are available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Regions/5/Ballona-EIR.

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

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Aug. 24 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $24.5 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 15 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. The state funds for all these projects come from bond measures approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources. Funded projects include:

  • A $317,000 grant to East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservancy (ECCCHC) and the acceptance of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grant, and the approval to sub-grant these federal funds to the ECCCHC. This will fund a cooperative project with the East Bay Regional Park District to acquire approximately 40 acres of land for the protection and preservation of existing regional wildlife linkages and grassland habitats that support listed species identified in the ECCCHC/Natural Community Conservation Plan, south of the city of Antioch in Contra Costa County.
  • A $1.6 million grant to the California Department of Water Resources for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the San Joaquin River Conservancy (SJRC) to construct public access and habitat enhancements to a gravel pit pond adjacent to the San Joaquin River at the SJRC Sycamore Island property, approximately 3 miles downstream of the State Route 41 bridge in Madera County.
  • A $1.4 million grant to the Regents of the University of California for a cooperative project with University of California, Santa Barbara to construct an administrative and meeting hall, renovate research quarters, construct an outdoor kitchen and repair roads and other infrastructure and facilities needed to serve current and projected needs within the Sedgwick Reserve, 35 miles north of Santa Barbara near the town of Santa Ynez in Santa Barbara County.
  • A $20 million grant to assist a cooperative project with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority to acquire a multipurpose easement over approximately 9 acres of land for habitat restoration, open space preservation, and to provide potential future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities, four miles north of downtown Los Angeles in Los Angeles County.
  • A $384,600 grant to The Chaparral Lands Conservancy for a cooperative project with the California Department of Parks and Recreation to restore approximately 5 acres of sensitive vernal pool and sensitive maritime succulent scrub habitats on City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department property adjacent to Ocean Hills Parkway and Otay Mesa Road, in the community of Otay Mesa.

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

a muddy drive leads to a river with trees and grass on the banks
Photo courtesy of DWR
dried-out scrub brush and dead grass among fan palms, with arid mountains in the distance, under a blue sky
Photo courtesy of City of Los Angeles
wet, grassy vernal pool habitat damaged by mountain bikes
WCB photo by Don Crocker

 

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

CDFW to Host Public Outreach Meeting on Grasslands Wildlife Areas

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will host an outreach meeting on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2017, in Los Banos regarding Central Region Type A and B wildlife areas. CDFW will take comments and recommendations and provide updates on habitat conditions, availability of water for wetlands and possible impacts to hunter access on these public lands.

CDFW will be joined by representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited and the Grassland Water District.

State wildlife areas to be discussed include Mendota, Los Banos, Volta and North Grasslands, including the Salt Slough, China Island, Gadwall and Mud Slough units.  Federal refuge personnel will be available to address the Merced National Wildlife Refuge, including the Lone Tree Unit, and the San Luis National Wildlife Refuge, including the Kesterson, Blue Goose, East and West Bear Creek and Freitas units. The Grassland Water District will make a short presentation on refuge water supply.

Specific subjects to be addressed this year include the expansion of assigned pond hunting units at the Los Banos Wildlife Area and the Salt Slough Unit of the North Grasslands Wildlife Area, as well as habitat conditions, changes and rehabilitation projects on all properties.

The meeting will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Grassland Environmental Education Center, which is located at 18110 W. Henry Miller Road in Los Banos. Please email Sean Allen if you are planning to attend so enough seating and refreshments can be arranged.

CDFW’s Central Region encompasses 12 counties in central California and is one of seven CDFW regions in the state.

CDFW annually provides an opportunity for licensed hunters to comment and make recommendations on public hunting programs, including anticipated habitat conditions in the hunting areas on wildlife areas through public meetings and other outreach.

Media Contacts:
Sean Allen, CDFW Central Region, (209) 826-0463
Peter Tira, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

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