Category Archives: Habitat Conservation

Earth Day Reminder: Everything We Do Affects Wildlife

Saturday, April 22 is Earth Day, a good time to remember what John Muir said so eloquently: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” That fact influences nearly everything the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) does to manage and protect the state’s native plants, invertebrates, fish, wildlife and habitats.

Twenty million people in the U.S. participated in the first Earth Day in 1970, to increase public awareness of the damage humans were doing to the environment. People used the day to educate themselves and others about the relationship we have with the world’s natural resources. That year, California was one of the first states to enact statutes protecting rare and endangered animal species, and it remains a world leader in environmental protection. Now, Earth Day is celebrated every year by more than a billion people in 192 nations.

CDFW sees the effects of human behavior on wildlife and ecosystems every day. As the public steward for California’s wildlife and habitat, CDFW practices conservation and restoration statewide with considerable success. California tule elk (Cervus elaphus nannodes) provide a good example.

By 1870 very few individual tule elk were known to exist; they were closely related and on the verge of extinction. When the state Legislature banned elk hunting in 1873, it was unclear if any even remained. One pair was discovered by a local game warden near Buttonwillow, and nurtured to save the species. In 1977, seven elk were reintroduced to their former native habitat at Grizzly Island in Solano County. Since then, this herd has not only flourished, but provided seed stock for CDFW to establish new herds. Statewide, tule elk populations have expanded to 5,100 animals in 21 herds.

Two charismatic birds that were once endangered have recovered well enough to be de-listed under the U.S. Endangered Species Act: the Peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus anatum) and California brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus). By 1969 both species’ breeding populations had plummeted, primarily because of organochlorine pesticides like DDT. The chemicals made the birds’ eggshells too thin and fragile to withstand the parents’ weight in the nest, so multiple generations were crushed during incubation. Recovery began when the state and federal governments and Canada banned the use of those pesticides. Reducing human disturbance of nesting and roosting sites aided the pelicans’ recovery, and a captive breeding program supported recovery of the falcon population. Along with landowners and other scientists, CDFW scientists’ research and monitoring provided the facts needed to list both species, make their recovery possible, and determine when it was time to de-list them. CDFW continues to work with many partners to monitor de-listed species to ensure their populations remain healthy.

The endangered Light-footed Ridgway’s Rail (Rallus longirostris levipes, formerly known as light-footed clapper rail) is slowly recovering, thanks to CDFW and other scientists and partners, and because of habitat acquisition by the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB), which purchased land for the Upper Newport Bay Ecological Reserve. There, and in other coastal marshes of Southern California, these secretive birds are protected, and a captive breeding program is underway to supplement the wild population. A population decrease in 2008 is believed to have been weather-related, and could be a harbinger of what’s in store if climate change predictions come to pass. The consistent management and captive breeding program have brought the population back up to more than 600 pairs.

Eighty years ago people thought Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) were extinct. A small colony was discovered at Big Sur in 1938 and given legal protection. The combined efforts of local, state and federal governments, nonprofit organizations and individuals have nurtured the population to around 3,000. That’s only a fraction of historic numbers, but a step in the right direction.

In 1994 CDFW’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response and UC Davis created the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) to rescue, rehabilitate and release wildlife injured in oil spills. OWCN quickly became the world’s premier oiled wildlife rescue organization and pioneered research in the subject to develop the best achievable care using the best available technology. Since 1995, the OWCN has responded to more than 75 oil spills throughout California and has cared for nearly 8,000 oiled birds and mammals.

“Working in the oil spill response field for over 25 years, I have seen how our community quickly responds to a detrimental environmental incident,” CDFW Environmental Program Manager Randy Imai said. “So, I know we can all do this at a much smaller scale in our everyday lives. Every one of us can make a difference.”

The WCB supports projects that benefit wildlife with bond money approved by California voters for environment-related projects. In 2016 alone, the WCB allocated approximately $93 million to more than 100 projects. That money bought more than 8,000 acres of wildlife habitat, conservation easements on more than 33,000 acres of habitat, restoration and enhancement of more than 17,000 acres, public access rights, stream flow enhancement studies and infrastructure improvements, and it helped develop Natural Community Conservation Plans that protect multiple species.

You don’t have to be a scientist, wildlife officer or legislator to protect California’s wildlife and ecosystems. There are many things most anyone can do, including:

  • Pick up litter. Wildlife often mistake trash for food and die because of it, and wild birds can become entangled and die in abandoned fishing line.
  • Don’t use rat poison. Let rodents’ natural predators—coyotes, foxes, bobcats, raptors (owls, hawks) and snakes—control their population. See our Rodenticides webpage for details.
  • Replace your lawn with native plants to help conserve water and our native pollinators. Locally native plants can thrive in both dry and wet years.
  • Conserve water.  Conservation is the way of life in California. Use as little water as possible to prevent shortages and assure sufficient water for food crops and for ecosystem protection.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle. Most California cities and counties have recycling programs for both residents and businesses. Visit CalRecycle Earth Day.
  • Buy in bulk and use recyclable materials. Compost veggie scraps and yard clippings in gardens. Landfills destroy valuable wildlife habitat, so think about that each time you make a trip to your garbage containers. The cumulative impacts are enormous.
  • Use biodegradable soaps. They pollute less than other soaps.
  • Drive less. Plan your errands to reduce the number of car trips. Walk, bike, carpool or take public transit. Spare the Air! If you can, make your next car electric or hybrid to help slow climate change.
  • Never dump oil, chemicals, or any other waste into a storm drain or gutter.
  • Take children out for nature walks and teach them about the local plants and animals. They can’t be stewards of the future without understanding and caring for nature. We’re all in it together on this one planet Earth.
  • Volunteer at nature centers, ecological reserves, or for a government-led program like the Natural Resources Volunteer Program. Volunteer at schools or recreation centers, and create nature and ecology programs.
  • Go Birding! Share bird identification books and binoculars with others who may not have them. Visit California Audubon for information.
  • Keep dogs on a leash in wild places, even on beaches. Don’t let dogs flush birds! Birds need undisturbed time to nest successfully, to forage, and then to rest and preen and conserve energy.
  • Keep cats indoors. Cats kill millions of birds each year, not out of malice, but because they’re wired to kill and eat them. A clean litter box is not difficult to maintain. Just be sure to bag the waste in biodegradable material and dispose of it in your garbage can.
  • Go Solar! Utilities offer rebates, and if you can afford a solar energy system, you’ll help reduce the rate of climate change. If you can’t, let the sun warm your home through windows on sunny days.
  • Conserve electricity, use natural light as much as possible, and turn off all lights when not in use. It takes natural resources to create energy and wildlife habitat is compromised or destroyed in the process. Energy production pollutes the air and produces greenhouse gases, contributing to the climate change problem and respiratory ailments. Use thermal drapes and energy-efficient windows to keep your home warm or cool as needed, and dress for the temperature, so you use the heat or air conditioner less. Use a clothes line outdoors or hang clothes to dry indoors. You’ll save money as well as energy!

There are many entertaining and informative Earth Day events planned throughout California. Here’s a small sample:

Earth Day Festival at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve, April 22, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3842 Warner Ave., Huntington Beach (92647). The free event will include educational activity booths and guided tours of the reserve. Exhibitors include CDFW, Bolsa Chica State Beach, Wetland and Wildlife Care Center, Native People of SoCal, Orange County Coastkeeper, Shipley Nature Center, Air Quality Management District, Wyland Foundation, Shed Your Skin, and co-host Amigos de Bolsa Chica. Enjoy the Windows to Our Wetlands bus, interactive booths, native plant stations, a craft booth, food for sale, and more. The event is handicap accessible, held in the north parking lot. For more information, call (714) 846-1114.

CDFW will be at the U.S. Forest Service’s Kern River Valley Bioregions Festival at Circle Park in Kernville April 22, to explain the Kern River Hatchery renovation project and the new Kern River Rainbow program with the Friends of the Kern River Hatchery. The CDFW Natural Resource Volunteer Program will provide a booth with information on volunteer opportunities.

CDFW will host booths at three Sacramento area events: the Roseville Celebrate the Earth Festival and Sacramento Zoo Earth Day on April 22, and the ECOS Sacramento Earth Day on April 23. Ask staff about California wildlife, Watchable Wildlife locations in the greater Sacramento area and Nimbus Fish Hatchery, which is open to visitors year-round. Enjoy a variety of hands-on activities, including the Salmon Survival Wheel, where players learn about the obstacles that salmon must overcome in order to spawn.

Volunteer Work Day at Friant Interactive Nature Site, April 21 and 22, 8:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 17443 N. Friant Rd, Friant (93626). Spend a fun day outdoors, doing trail maintenance (pulling weeds, raking, pruning) in a lovely setting for outdoors education. For more information, please call (559) 696-8092.

Gray Lodge Clean-up and Field Day and Public Meeting, April 22, 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., 3207 Rutherford Road, Gridley (95948). The event is in partnership with California Waterfowl Association (CWA), and will include habitat and maintenance projects, followed by a lunch sponsored by CWA. The day will be informative and will help improve the quality of wildlife habitat. At 1:30 p.m., CDFW will hold an annual public outreach meeting regarding the Gray Lodge and Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Areas at the Gray Lodge Wildlife Area’s main office building. For more information, please call (530) 846-7500 or email GLWLA@wildlife.ca.gov.

Los Banos Wildlife Area will have a hands-on activity booth at the Modesto Earth Day Festival in Graceda Park.

Many more events are listed at CalRecycle and EarthDay.org.

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Media Contact:
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Nominations Now Being Accepted for Fisheries Restoration Grant Program Peer Review Committee

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP) is seeking nominations from the public to fill three vacancies on the FRGP Peer Review Committee (PRC).

Pursuant to the Public Resources Code, Section 6217, members of the PRC are appointed by the Director of CDFW to provide advice, oversight and recommendations regarding grant funding priorities for the FRGP.

Seven of the PRC’s 14 representatives are recommended by the California Advisory Committee on Salmon and Steelhead Trout. The remaining seven represent the following interests: one representative from the agriculture industry, one representative from the timber industry, one representative of public water agency interests, one academic or research scientist with expertise in anadromous fisheries restoration, and three county supervisors from coastal counties (county supervisors are recommended by the California State Association of Counties). All representatives must reside in or represent interests in coastal and Central Valley counties in which native salmon and steelhead exist.

CDFW is currently accepting nominations from the general public for the timber industry, agricultural industry, and academic or research positions through May 31, 2017. The appointed representatives serve four-year terms, and these appointments extend until December 2020, starting with the PRC meeting scheduled in the fall of 2017.

To nominate a representative for one of the three positions, please send a nomination letter to:

Patty Forbes, FRGP Coordinator
Wildlife Fisheries Division – Watershed Restoration Grants Branch
1416 9th Street, Room 1266
Sacramento, CA 95814
FRGP@wildlife.ca.gov

Nomination letters must include the candidate’s resume and verification they represent coastal or Central Valley counties in which salmon and steelhead exist. For more information, please contact Matt Wells at (916) 445-1285 or FRGP@wildlife.ca.gov.

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

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

State Agencies Pilot Wildlife Crossing Mitigation Credit System

California’s state wildlife and transportation departments signed a credit agreement on an innovative pilot project to create advanced mitigation credits for wildlife highway crossings. The mitigation crediting system developed for the Laurel Curve Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Project on Highway 17 in Santa Cruz County can be used to transition into a statewide program being developed through the new Regional Conservation Investments Strategies Program.

Using the Laurel Curve project as a pilot, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) developed a model compensatory mitigation crediting system.

An agreement between CDFW and Caltrans creates credits that can be used to mitigate for impacts to wildlife movement for future transportation projects within a geographical area defined as the Service Area, and determines the price of each credit. Mitigation credits are calculated using a first-of-its-kind methodology which takes into account the length of highway to be improved in lane miles or the project footprint in acres and the total cost of the project. When appropriate, Caltrans may sell or transfer the credits within Caltrans or to other transportation agencies with projects in the Service Area, thereby freeing funds for additional infrastructure projects.

“Highway 17 bisects undeveloped, wildlife-rich land in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and for the safety of deer, mountain lion, and motorists, too, we need to connect this habitat with a safe corridor,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird.  “CDFW, Caltrans and the new transportation package have come together to solve this problem.”

Senate Bill 1, the transportation funding package, includes $30 million for advanced mitigation strategies for projects similar to the creative Highway 17 project.

“Not only will this improve wildlife habitat connectivity and highway safety, but will also allow us to expedite future transportation projects using the mitigation credits made available,” said Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty.

CDFW and Caltrans worked closely with the California Transportation Commission (CTC) to formulate the credit agreement. Caltrans, CDFW, the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County, Pathways for Wildlife, the U.C. Santa Cruz Puma Study and the Santa Cruz County Transportation Commission all worked together to develop a solution for the wildlife crossing at Laurel Curve.

Caltrans has built similar wildlife crossings on highways 1, 68, 101, 152 and 280.

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Media Contacts:
Jennifer Garrison, CDFW Habitat Conservation Planning Branch, (916) 653-9779
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Education and Outreach, (916) 651-7824
Jim Shivers, Caltrans, (805) 549-3237

2017 Invasive Species Youth Art Contest Kicks Off with “Don’t Let it Loose” Theme

Young artists and future biologists are invited to enter this year’s California Invasive Species Art Contest, sponsored by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). This year’s theme is “Don’t Let it Loose!”

Youths in grades 2 through 12 are eligible to enter. Entries should depict invasive species that might be released into California’s waters, parks and wildlands, along with appropriate messaging such as (but not limited to) the following:2017 CISAW Youth Poster Contest Announcement Flier

  • Releasing invasive species into the wild can harm the environment and California’s native plants and animals
  • Description(s) of one or more species that are commonly released into waters, parks or wildlands
  • Explanations or illustrations showing other ways to rehome unwanted pets or plants

All types of media are welcome and encouraged – drawings, paintings, animations, comic strips, videos, public service announcements, etc. Submissions must be received no later than May 5, 2017, and may be submitted by email or regular mail.

Winners will be chosen in three age divisions: grades 2-4, 5-8 and 9-12. Winners from each division will receive awards and have their posters displayed on CDFW’s Invasive Species Action Week webpage. The submission judged to be the best overall will also receive the “Invasive Species Program Choice” Award.

The entry form and a pdf of the contest announcement flyer can be found online at www.wildlife.ca.gov/CISAW.

The contest is sponsored by CDFW’s Invasive Species Program as part of the 2017 California Invasive Species Action Week, June 3-11. The goal of the Action Week is to increase public awareness of invasive species issues and encourage public participation in the fight against California’s invasive species and their impacts on our natural resources.

Many people don’t realize the potential implications of very simple acts. For example, the release of non-native crayfish used as fishing bait has likely resulted in the decline of California’s native crayfish and impacted other species dependent on the habitat. The dumping of aquarium plants can ultimately end up destroying the quality of our waterways and lands. Red-eared sliders, aquarium fish, and Nerodia watersnakes are other examples of released species that can become invasive and negatively impact native species.

California Invasive Species Action Week activities around the state will include presentations on aquatic and terrestrial invasives, guided outings to observe and assess infested areas, invasive species removal efforts, habitat restoration projects and the announcement of the winners of the youth poster contest. Opportunities for youths and adults to participate or volunteer will be available across the state through participating agencies, organizations and volunteer groups, with information and details to be provided on the Action Week webpage.

More information about CDFW’s Invasive Species Program, including examples of invasive species currently affecting California’s wild lands, can be found at www.wildlife.ca.gov/conservation/invasives.

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Media Contacts:
Rachael Klopfenstein, CDFW Invasive Species Program, (916) 651-3122
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

CDFW Awards $15 Million for Fisheries Habitat Restoration and Forest Legacy Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today announced the selection of 43 projects that will receive funding for the restoration, enhancement and protection of anadromous salmonid habitat in California watersheds, as well as forest legacy restoration.

The grants, which total $15,297,743, are distributed through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP). They include approximately $2 million allocated for timber legacy restoration projects and approximately $13.3 million for anadromous salmonid restoration projects. FRGP monies come from a combination of state sources and the federal Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund.

“Restoring the ecological function of critical fish habitat remains an ongoing priority,” CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham said. “Our successes happen when the entire restoration community works together, and we are so fortunate to have stakeholders in California committed to this goal.”

In response to the February 2016 FRGP solicitation, CDFW received 116 proposals requesting more than $36 million in funding in total. All proposals underwent an initial administrative review. Those that passed were then evaluated through a technical review process that included reviews by CDFW and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists.

The 43 approved projects will further the objectives of 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 State Wildlife Action Plan, as well as addressing limiting factors specified in state and federal recovery plans.

The list of approved projects is available on the FRGP website.

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Media Contacts:
Patty Forbes, Watershed Restoration Grants Branch, (916) 327-8842
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988