Category Archives: Habitat Conservation

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its May 21 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $17.8 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Some of the 19 funded projects will benefit fish and wildlife – including some endangered species – while others will provide the public with 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, land owners and the local community. The funds for all these projects come from initiatives approved by voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources. Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $360,000 grant to American Rivers, Inc., for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), US Forest Service (USFS), Wildlife Conservation Society, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and Alpine Watershed Group, for ecological restoration of the West Fork Carson River in CDFW’s Hope Valley Wildlife Area and the USFS’s Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, 12 miles south of South Lake Tahoe in Alpine County.
  • A $450,000 grant to the Redwood Community Action Agency for a cooperative project with Humboldt and Del Norte County Agriculture Departments, California Department of Transportation, California Department of Parks and Recreation and the Yurok Tribe, to eradicate non-native knotweeds and other invasive species at more than 100 locations in Humboldt and Del Norte counties.
  • A $1.6 million grant to Pacific Forest Trust to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 3,468 acres of land to protect of a mixed conifer working forest and habitat linkages located near the community of Montague in Siskiyou County.
  • A $2.1 million grant for the acquisition of a conservation easement over approximately 1,447 acres of land by CDFW for a cooperative project with The Trust for Public Land, to protect native oak woodlands habitat near Penn Valley in Nevada County.
  • A $465,000 grant to the Santa Cruz Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, California Conservation Corps, State Coastal Conservancy, State Water Resources Control Board, Land Trust of Santa Cruz County and a private landowner, to restore riparian habitat in areas critical to special status amphibian and fish species, located on two coastal watersheds in Santa Cruz County.
  • A $568,000 grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with the National Park Service to eliminate Argentine ants from Santa Cruz Island, approximately 20 miles west of Ventura Harbor in Santa Barbara County.

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

small river with pebble bottom running through a dry Alpine wilderness
West Fork Carson River in CDFW’s Hope Valley Wildlife Area and the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, in Alpine County. WCB photo
Green, leafy groundcover blankets floor of deciduous forest
Non-native knotweeds and other invasive species found in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Photo by Monica Walker
narrow creek runs through green meadow with a few tall conifer trees
Butte Creek in Siskiyou County
Black, red and white sign warning of Argentine ants, posted on rural wood fence
Invasive Argentine ants warning on Santa Cruz Island, in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Creek runs through green and brown forest brush
Riparian habitat in areas critical to special status amphibian and fish species, in a coastal watershed in Santa Cruz County. WCB photo
Oak trees on a hill surrounded by dry, yellow grasses
Native oak woodlands habitat near Penn Valley in Nevada County. WCB photo

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

CDFW and Partners Investigate Decline in Pheasant Population

pheasantThe California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently hosted a pheasant ecology workshop to examine possible causes of a decline of the state’s pheasant population over the last 25 years.

Held in cooperation with Pheasants Forever, the workshop convened more than 45 state and federal scientists, public and private land managers, and representatives from Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association.

Participants reviewed research from scientists at the US Geological Survey and heard from pheasant experts from across the nation. Data collected showed that contributing factors to the decline include changes in agricultural practices, growth of forested habitats in historic wetland and grassland environments, climate change and predation from increasing raven populations.

“The combination of modern analysis tools and on-the-ground land management techniques helped us chart a map forward, which is especially important during the drought,” said CDFW Upland Game Program Scientist Matt Meshriy. “We look forward to collaborating with Pheasants Forever and other conservation partners interested in this species.”

The workshop, held on April 30 and May 1, included presentations by Dr. Les Flake of South Dakota State University and Senior Research Biologist Dave Musil of Idaho Fish and Game. CDFW managers from six state wildlife areas and federal partners from the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complexes also presented reports on site-specific conditions that described the breadth of habitat challenges facing pheasants and other upland nesting bird species throughout the state.

Pheasants were introduced in California in the 1890s and adapted well in the agricultural regions of the state. By the mid-1960s, about 250,000 hunters were spending about 800,000 days afield in pursuit of this game bird. Since the mid-1990s, populations have been steadily declining. In 2010, only about 30,000 pheasant hunters spent about 100,000 days afield.

Pheasants Forever is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization dedicated to upland habitat conservation. Pheasants Forever and Quail Forever have more than 140,000 members and 700 local chapters across the United States and Canada. Chapters are empowered to determine how 100 percent of their locally raised conservation funds are spent; the only national conservation organization that operates through this truly grassroots structure. Since its creation in 1982, Pheasants Forever has spent $577 million on 475,000 habitat projects benefiting 10 million acres nationwide.

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Media Contacts:
Scott Gardner, Wildlife Branch, Upland Game Program, (916) 801-6257

Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

CDFW Scientists Publish Groundbreaking Work on Marijuana’s Effect on the Environment

Northern California marijuana grow
Northern California marijuana grow

Environmental scientists with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recently published a first-of-its-kind study that clearly shows that water used for growing marijuana has a devastating effect on fish in the state.

The study showed that during drought conditions, water demand for marijuana cultivation exceeded stream flow in three of four study watersheds. The resulting paper, entitled “Impacts of Surface Water Diversions for Marijuana Cultivation on Aquatic Habitat in Four Northwestern California Watersheds,” concludes that diminished stream flow from this water-intensive activity is likely to have lethal to sub-lethal effects on state and federally listed salmon and steelhead trout and will cause further decline of sensitive amphibian species.

The study was published online in the scientific journal PLOS One and can be found here.

By using online tools to count marijuana plants and measure greenhouses, and conducting inspections of marijuana cultivation sites with state wildlife officers and local law enforcement, CDFW scientists quantified plant numbers and water use. Utilizing stream flow data provided by staff at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), CDFW determined water demand for cultivation could use more than 100 percent of stream flow during the summer dry season in three of four study watersheds. Stream flow monitoring conducted by CDFW in the summer of 2014 appeared to verify these results.

“All the streams we monitored in watersheds with large scale marijuana cultivation went dry,” said CDFW Senior Environmental Scientist Scott Bauer, lead author of the research paper. “The only stream we monitored that didn’t go dry contained no observed marijuana cultivation.”

CDFW’s Law Enforcement Division works closely with dozens of other state and federal agencies to eradicate illegal marijuana grows on public, tribal and private lands as well as protect the state’s natural resources.

“This research paper demonstrates the importance of greater regulatory efforts by state agencies to prevent the extinction of imperiled fisheries resources,” said CDFW Assistant Chief Brian Naslund. “CDFW’s new Watershed Enforcement Team (WET) was created with just that in mind.”

The WET program works with agency partners to protect public trust resources from the negative effects of marijuana cultivation, which include both excessive water use and pollution.

CDFW will continue to monitor the effects of water diversion for marijuana cultivation on stream flow through the summer of 2015.

Some medical marijuana cultivation is legal in California on private lands. Growers must submit a CDFW lake and streambed alteration notification and comply with other applicable laws and regulations. Responsible growers help conserve the state’s natural resources and are less likely to be subject to enforcement action.

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Media Contact:
Scott Bauer, CDFW Watershed Enforcement Team, (707) 441-2011
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

Restoration Grant Program Draft Guidelines Now Available for Public Comment

Media Contacts:
Helen Birss, CDFW Watershed Restoration Grant Branch, (916) 653-9834
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is excited to announce the release of the Restoration Grant Program draft guidelines authorized and funded by Proposition 1 (Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014), which was passed by California voters last November. CDFW is now seeking public input on these guidelines via email, mail and a series of public meetings.

“This is an important opportunity to continue and expand upon the work we do across the state to restore habitat for fish and wildlife and protect important landscapes, while fostering partnerships and selecting the best projects through a competitive process,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham.

For CDFW, this bond act provides, in total, $285 million for ecosystem restoration projects outside the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta) and $87.5 million for projects that benefit the Delta. Ecosystem restoration provides important benefits to water supply and sustainability as well as fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. Ecosystem restoration is also a climate change mitigation and adaptation strategy.

The public is encouraged to review and comment on the draft guidelines which can be found both at the CDFW Grants website and the Bond Accountability website. Written comments should be emailed to the WatershedGrants@wildlife.ca.gov or mailed to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Restoration Grant Program
1416 Ninth St.
Sacramento, CA 95814

CDFW will hold three public meetings in March and April 2015 for the purpose of receiving comments on the draft guidelines. The meeting dates and locations will be posted on the CDFW Grants website when available.

The purpose of the guidelines is to establish the process, procedures and criteria through which CDFW will administer competitive grants for multi-benefit ecosystem and watershed protection and restoration projects in accordance with statewide priorities, including those in the California Water Action Plan. To achieve this, CDFW is creating two new grant programs. The Watershed Restoration Grant Program will focus on watershed restoration outside of the Delta and the Delta Water Quality and Ecosystem Restoration Grant Program will focus on water quality, ecosystem restoration and fish protection facilities that benefit the Delta.

CDFW Approves Restoration Grants Including $3.5 Million for Drought Projects

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) announced its selection of grants to restore and protect river and estuarine habitat for coastal salmon and steelhead trout. This year’s selection includes both traditional restoration projects as well as special projects to respond to the drought and improve fisheries habitat on private and state forestlands. With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in January 2014 and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. Providing funds to support drought response projects is another way the state is leading the way to make sure California is able to cope with continued drought.

Projects approved in the full list total more than $18 million, which includes $14 million for 63 habitat restoration projects, $3.5 million for 23 drought response projects and just over $500,000 for five forestland restoration projects.

“These grants will fund important restoration projects from San Diego to Del Norte counties to help protect the state’s coastal salmon and steelhead resources,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This year is especially noteworthy, because we are funding projects that address the impacts of this unprecedented drought, both along the coast and in the Central Valley. We are excited to work with our many partners as the restoration projects break ground this summer.”

Through CDFW’s Fisheries Restoration Grant Program (FRGP), coastal restoration projects are funded by the federal Pacific Coast Salmon Recovery Fund and state bonds. Drought projects are funded by 2014 Emergency Drought Response funding, and forest projects are supported by the Forest Land Restoration Fund.

The FRGP was established in 1981 in response to rapidly declining populations of wild salmon and steelhead trout and deteriorating fish habitat in California. This competitive grant program has invested millions of dollars to support projects from sediment reduction to watershed education throughout coastal California. Contributing partners include federal and local governments, tribes, water districts, fisheries organizations, watershed restoration groups, the California Conservation Corps, AmeriCorps and private landowners.

The Proposal Solicitation Notice for next year’s FRGP grants will be available on Feb. 17, 2015.

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

Patty Forbes, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 327-8842

CDFW Reminds Visitors of Usage Rules at Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve

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Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908

Local Treasure Home to Badgers, Bobcats, Deer, Sensitive Plant Species and More

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is asking visitors to the Burton Mesa Ecological Reserve (BMER) to be mindful of the property rules.

The BMER is open to the public for walking and wildlife watching from sunrise to sunset. Mountain biking, hunting and horseback riding are prohibited. On all state properties, it is illegal to feed wildlife, operate motorized vehicles outside of designated areas, disturb bird nests, release any fish or animal, start any fire or light fireworks or other explosive or incendiary devices, disturb habitat, alter the landscape or remove vegetation.

“In the past year, we have seen an excessive amount of habitat destruction at the Burton Mesa property, which has included tree removal, altered vegetation and increased erosion,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Christine Thompson. “Visitors are welcome and should stay in designated areas, observe usage rules at trailheads and respect the property. We all need to commit to protecting this reserve for all to enjoy in the years to come.”

The BMER consists of 5,368 acres and is characterized by unusual, low-growing, multi-trunked coast live oaks. It is one of the last significant stands of maritime chaparral in central California and is home to several rare, threatened and endangered species, including 14 plant species found nowhere else in the world. Badgers, bobcats, deer, mountain lions, woodrats, snakes and many other species occupy the habitat as well.

The property is owned by the State Lands Commission and leased to CDFW for management, operation and maintenance. In 2004, the Fish and Game Commission approved the designation of ecological reserve status due to its environmentally sensitive resources. Ecological reserves are designed to provide public enjoyment and education as well as protect fragile habitat for a variety of threatened and endangered plants, mammals and reptiles.

According to state law (Title 14, CCR section 630), CDFW is obligated to protect and maintain designated ecological reserves, which includes enforcing the rules. Failure to comply with the law could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

For more information on BMER, please visit: http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/er/region5/burtonmesa.html.

Video clips and pictures of vegetation damage can be found here: http://ftp.dfg.ca.gov/public/oceo.

CDFW Urges Californians to Be Mindful of Property Rules on Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve

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

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is reminding those who visit state ecological reserves to be mindful of the site’s specific rules and regulations. CDFW also reminds Californians that trespassing on ecological reserves and wildlife areas that are closed, like the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve (BWER), is not only a crime, but can be very dangerous.

CDFW limits public access to BWER due to health, safety and resource concerns. CDFW is working to address the onsite criminal activity, including drugs, as well as homeless encampments and their related issues. BWER also has sensitive cultural resources that should be respected.

Public access to BWER is available through Friends of Ballona Wetlands (www.ballonafriends.org/), The Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority (www.mrca.ca.gov/), and the Audubon Society (http://losangelesaudubon.org/index.php/education-mainmenu-194/ballona-wetlands-program-mainmenu-203) which conduct organized tours and restoration activities in specified areas of BWER. CDFW also partners with local law enforcement agencies to assist with site security and addressing issues pertaining to the homeless encampments. If people want to participate in protecting, visiting and restoring BWER they can contact the organizations above to get involved. They can also report suspicious activity witnessed at BWER to the CalTIP Hotline by calling (888) 334-2258. Finally, they can spread the word to friends and family about this important natural resource in a highly urban area.

According to state law (Title 14 CCR, section 630), CDFW is obligated to protect and maintain designated ecological reserves which includes enforcing the rules.

Reserves that are open to the public have hours from sunrise to sunset. On all state properties, it is illegal to feed wildlife, operate motorized vehicles outside of designated areas, disturb bird nests, release any fish or animal, start any fire or light fireworks or other explosive or incendiary devices, disturb habitat, alter the landscape or remove vegetation.

Failure to comply with the law could result in a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.

For more information on CDFW’s ecological reserves, please visit http://www.dfg.ca.gov/lands/er/.

CDFW Completes Emergency Restoration Project to Save Giant Garter Snakes in Sacramento County

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Media Contacts:
Janice Mackey, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8908
Eric Kleinfelter, CDFW Environmental Scientist, (209) 744-1598

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed an emergency restoration project at the Cosumnes River Preserve to help save a state and federal threatened species, the giant garter snake (Thamnophis gigas).

Snake Marsh at the Cosumnes River Preserve is home to a genetically unique population of giant garter snakes. With two consecutive years of drought, there was a significant chance of the marsh ponds drying up, potentially causing severe impacts to the snakes.

“The project consisted of well water being pumped into the marsh and the ponds where the snakes live. It was planned and carried-out on CDFW land that is part of the Preserve,” said CDFW Environmental Scientist Eric Kleinfelter. “We had very dedicated contractors and department staff who completed this project in just one month. The Nature Conservancy also played an important role by funding a hydrologic study that showed just how vulnerable to drought this aquatic system is. It was truly a collaborative effort.”

Endemic to California’s Central Valley, the non-venomous giant garter snake is olive to black in color with light yellowish stripes on each side and can grow from three to five feet long. Secretive and difficult to find, this aquatic snake will quickly drop into the water from its basking site before the observer can get close. When threatened, it will excrete a foul-smelling musk. It feeds primarily on fish, frogs and tadpoles and can live up to 12 years.

Located approximately 25 miles south of Sacramento near Galt, the Cosumnes River Preserve consists of approximately 48,000 acres of wildlife habitat and agricultural lands. The Preserve is buffered by a variety of agricultural operations and provides numerous social, economic and recreational benefits to local communities residing in the larger Sacramento and San Joaquin areas. The habitat supports many species of native wildlife, including greater and lesser Sandhill cranes, Swainson’s hawks and waterfowl that migrate throughout the Pacific Flyway.

Preserve ownership includes seven partners: The Nature Conservancy, Bureau of Land Management, CDFW, Sacramento County, Department of Water Resources, Ducks Unlimited, and the California State Lands Commission. The Preserve is centered along the Cosumnes River, its floodplains, and riparian habitat. For more information about the Cosumnes River Preserve, please visit http://www.cosumnes.org.

CDFW Seeks Public Comment on Wetland Restoration Grant Program

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking comments on a new solicitation of grant proposals for wetland restoration grants.

Dry grasses surround blue water in a seasonal wetland
Flooded section of Yolo Basin Wildlife Area, north of the Delta. Dana Michaels/CDFW photo

CDFW recently initiated its Wetlands Restoration Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grant Program, and is seeking public input on the development of a solicitation for projects to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and achieve co-benefits for fish and wildlife habitat. CDFW is seeking input on the geographic scope of projects, solicitation priorities, types of projects, methods of monitoring and quantifying GHG reduction, and proposal evaluation criteria for this solicitation. The project area is currently defined as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, coastal wetlands and mountain meadows.

Proposals submitted under this solicitation will undergo an evaluation and ranking process to identify high quality projects to achieve the priorities and objectives of this solicitation.

Written public comments on this solicitation must be submitted by noon on Sept.18 and sent to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attention: Helen Birss
Re: Wetland Restoration Grant Program
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1260
Sacramento, CA 95814

Comments can also be sent via e-mail to Helen.birss@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Solicitation comment” in the subject line.)

For more information on the solicitation process, please visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=88780&inline.

Media Contacts:
Helen Birss, CDFW Habitat Conservation Branch, (916) 653-9834
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

State and Federal Wildlife Managers Preparing Habitat for Migrating Birds

Media Contacts:
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824
Brad Burkholder, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-1829

Each year millions of birds migrate along the Pacific Flyway relying on a diverse string of habitats that stretch from Alaska and Canada to Central and South America. While the wetlands of the Central Valley provide less than 5 percent of the habitat historically available, they are critical as a feeding area during the migration and wintering of these birds. In following its mission, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has responsibility to provide habitat for these migrating birds.

Because habitat conditions on the northern breeding grounds have been good, a higher number of migratory birds have been reported across the Pacific Flyway. The fall migration into California is anticipated to result in numbers like those seen in the 1970s, when record numbers of birds made their way to the state’s wetlands areas. As California endures one of the worst droughts in recorded history, managers of state, federal and privately owned wildlife areas have been coordinating operational planning and the potential impacts of drought on the coming waves of migratory birds that depend on California habitats. To support these birds during their long migration, these efforts will greatly improve our ability to maximize habitat and food resources over the fall and winter with reduced water supplies.

“As the drought continues, it will be of key importance to balance the habitat needs of migratory birds and other species with the overall needs of domestic and agricultural uses,” said CDFW Deputy Director Dan Yparraguirre. “The situation is changing constantly so we will have to make some tough decisions ahead. We will continue to work with our partners to provide much needed habitat for waterfowl. In doing so, we will be employing the most efficient water saving strategies we can that provide the highest benefit to wildlife. Throughout the state, CDFW staff is carefully developing the most effective actions to conserve water and provide critical habitat.”

Migratory birds begin showing up in the Central Valley as early as July, with peak populations typically occurring in December and January. To accommodate the birds, wildlife area and refuge managers typically create habitat through water delivery to some wetlands in stages. As a result of extremely limited water supply this year, habitat availability on public areas will be all the more critical for early migrating species and to maintain natural habitat to reduce depredation on agricultural lands. Birds will congregate on fewer, smaller wetlands, likely increasing the effect of disease, which occurs even in wet years. Recreational opportunities on some public areas may be limited and reduced managed wetlands may also increase depredation on nearby agricultural fields.

Some state wildlife areas and the National Wildlife Refuge System were established as long ago as 1937 to provide core habitat areas and offset crop depredation by migratory waterfowl. State and federal agencies have relied on strong partnerships with nongovernmental organizations and private landowners to implement wetland habitat management and wildlife-friendly farming practices to meet the habitat needs in the Klamath Basin, Sacramento Valley, Suisun Marsh, San Joaquin Valley and the Imperial Valley regions.  Those partnerships and private lands programs have resulted in providing two-thirds of the wetland acreage while the wildlife areas and refuges provide the remaining one-third.

In support of the habitat needs and as part of the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA), the federal water project dedicates water supplies to 18 state and federal refuges throughout the Central Valley and the Grasslands Water District in Merced County. Due to limited water resources, these wetland habitats will be receiving only a portion of the water this year. Water supply quantities available to support the wetlands range from 30 percent at Kern National Wildlife Refuge south of the Delta, to 75 percent at Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, north of the Delta. Other refuges and private wetlands that do not receive CVPIA water are also facing significant water reductions. While strong partnerships and coordination make maximizing water resources possible, the extremely limited water supplies are anticipated to result in a 25 percent reduction of all managed wetland and significantly larger reductions of wildlife-friendly farming which will likely impact birds and humans alike.

“Scientists are predicting one of the largest Pacific Flyway bird migrations this fall due to a wet spring and above average breeding conditions in the north. With California’s historic drought, this could be a devastating year for birds,” said Sandi Matsumoto, senior project director of The Nature Conservancy’s migratory bird initiative. “The Nature Conservancy is very concerned about protecting enough viable wetland habitat for the incoming migratory birds. We are working with partners, such as CDFW, to reduce the potential negative impacts.”

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste – visit saveourwater.com to find out how everyone can do their part, and visit drought.ca.gov to learn more about how California is dealing with the effects of the drought.

For more information on CDFW’s actions to protect and preserve the state’s wildlife resources during this exceptional drought, please visit wildlife.ca.gov/drought.