Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

At its Sept. 13 meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) earmarked $43.6 million to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The 19 funded projects will provide benefits to fish and wildlife species, including some endangered species, and increase public access to these lands.  Several projects also demonstrate the importance of protecting working landscapes and integrate economic, social and environmental stewardship practices beneficial to the environment and the landowner. The funds for all of these projects come from recent bond initiatives approved by the voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Some of the funded projects include:

  • Riverside and San Diego County MSHCP/NCCP. The WCB approved
    A subdivision sits between lowland tundra and dry mountains
    Photo courtesy of Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority

    five projects designed to protect core areas of habitat that will benefit threatened and endangered species on 1,778 acres of important lands located in Riverside and San Diego counties. The Board approved the allocation of $7.7 million in state bond funds and an additional $8.4 million in federal matching funds from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) Habitat Conservation Planning Land Acquisition grants.

  • Windsor Oaks Habitat Restoration, Sonoma County.The WCB
    Part of a lake with an oak tree and vineyards in background
    Windsor Oaks riparian habitat in Sonoma County

    approved a grant to the Center for Social and Environmental Stewardship for a cooperative project with Windsor Oaks Vineyard to restore and enhance wildlife and pollinator habitat by installing hedgerows, restoring riparian habitat, installing bat and cavity nesting bird boxes and enhancing bee habitat on approximately four acres of privately owned land.

  • Arcata Community Forest Expansion, Humboldt County.The WCB
    Conifer trees top a green and golden hillside
    Arcata Community Forest expansion

    approved the allocation for two grants to the City of Arcata for a cooperative project with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG), the Trust for Public Land and Caltrans to acquire in fee approximately 136 acres of land for the expansion of the City of Arcata’s Community Forest (a mixed conifer managed working forest), located adjacent and east of the City of Arcata, in Humboldt County. The project will also protect riparian areas, the upper watersheds of salmonid streams, provide wildlife area linkages and will allow for public access and use.

  • Eel River Wildlife Area Salt RiverUnit Wetland Restoration,
    Green fields with Coast Range in background and cloudy sky
    Riverside Ranch along the Eel River, Humboldt County

    Humboldt County. The WCB approved a grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. for a cooperative project with the State Water Resources Control Board, DFG, the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service, the North American Wetlands Conservation Council, USFWS, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Caltrans to restore and enhance salt marsh, riparian forest and tidal sloughs on approximately 356 acres of formal tidal area on 2.5 miles of the Salt River channel, located one mile from the mouth of the Eel River in Humboldt County.

  • Leavitt Lake Conservation Easement, Lassen County.The WCB
    Grasslands and hills under partly cloudy sky
    Bass Hill Wildlife Area north of Susanville, in Lassen County. John Ranlett/Ducks Unlimited photo.

    approved a grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc. and Wetlands America Trust Inc. to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 1,781 acres of land for the protection of wetlands, floodplain, grazing land and grassland areas that benefit sensitive and protected species, including the greater sandhill crane and allow for the continuation of grazing operations on the north shore of Leavitt Lake, five miles southeast of the City of Susanville, in Lassen County.

  • Gualala River Forest Conservation Easement, Mendocino County.
    View of lush conifer and pine forest, mountains in background, blue sky
    Gualala River Forest, west of Cloverdale in Mendocino County.

    The WCB approved a grant to The Conservation Fund to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 13,913 acres of land to conserve and protect an economically sustainable working forest, oak woodlands, grasslands and critical habitat for native fish, wildlife and plants, located approximately 20 miles west of Cloverdale in southern Mendocino County.

Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains Rudnik Ranch, Kern County.The

A ranch and trees in dry hills
Rudnick Ranch

WCB approved a grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with DFG, the Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Caltrans and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to acquire fee interest in approximately 14,945 acres of land for the protection and preservation of important landscape linkages between the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Tulare Basin, the Tehachapi Mountains and Mojave Desert.

Waterfowl Hunting Delayed on Public Hunting Areas in the Sacramento Valley

Media Contacts:
Shaun Oldenberger, Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3763
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) must delay opening day of waterfowl season on Type-A state and federal hunting areas in the Sacramento Valley. Due to a delayed rice harvest, opening day will be Oct. 29, one week later than the rest of the Balance of State Zone.

Dry grasses surrounding a pond under overcast sky
Yolo Basin Wildlife Area

The areas affected by this delay in opening day are Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, Gray Lodge Wildlife Area, Little Dry Creek Wildlife Area, Llano Seco Wildlife Area, Howard Slough Wildlife Area, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Delevan NWR, Sutter NWR and Colusa NWR.

This year’s rice harvest is unusually late because wet weather delayed the spring planting and a mild summer slowed maturation. The harvest is expected to continue into late October this year in the Sacramento Valley.

DFG reached the decision to delay the waterfowl season in consultation with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and representatives from the agricultural community in the Sacramento area. The delayed refuge opener is intended to minimize crop depredation consistent with Lea Act requirements and the purpose of some state and federal areas. The Lea Act of 1948 provided funds for the acquisition of federal lands and for the state to acquire matching acreage to attract waterfowl away from adjacent agricultural lands.

Delayed refuge openers were common from the late 1940s to the early 1980s but advancements in farming technology have produced rice crops that mature earlier, minimizing the need for delay. There have been only three delayed refuge openers for waterfowl hunting in the last 26 years, the last of which was during the 2006-07 waterfowl hunting season.

Hunters should familiarize themselves with the regulations on the Fish and Game Commission website at www.fgc.ca.gov/regulations/current/waterfowlregs.aspx.

Closure of Abalone Fishery Under Consideration

Media Contacts:
Ian Taniguchi, DFG Marine Region, (562) 342-7182

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

The California Fish and Game Commission will consider emergency action on Thursday, Sept. 15 to possibly close the abalone fishery along the northern California coast. This action is being considered in the wake of confirmed reports of dead red abalone and other invertebrates on beaches and inside coves along the coast in Sonoma County.

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is currently attempting to assess the impact of the situation and will provide the Commission with information at this Thursday’s meeting. Based on DFG’s report, the Commission may take emergency action to close the abalone season along all or parts of the Sonoma coast.

There was an abalone die-off along the Sonoma coast beginning Aug. 27 as a result of a red tide-induced poisoning and/or lack of oxygen. According to DFG biologists, these abalone deaths coincided with a local red tide bloom and calm ocean conditions. Although the exact reasons for the abalone deaths are not known, invertebrate die-offs have occurred in the past along the northern California coast when similar weather and bloom conditions existed.

The number of dead and dying abalone is not known but DFG divers are assessing the damage this week via underwater transect surveys. Reports of dead abalone and a variety of invertebrates have come from Bodega Bay, Russian Gulch, Fort Ross, Timber Cove and Salt Point State Park. Other DFG biologists and game wardens have collected abalone, mussels and water samples since the beginning and are continuing to document reports from the public.

For more information, please refer to DFG’s Sept. 2 press release, https://cdfgnews.wordpress.com/2011/09/02/abalone-die-off-observed-in-sonoma-county/.

Abalone fishermen are advised to contact a physician immediately if they feel sick, and to report symptoms to the local county health department (www.sonoma-county.org/health/about/publichealth.asp). The latest red tide updates from the California Department of Public Health are also posted online at www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/Pages/DDWEM.aspx.

Controlled Levee Breach to Launch the Opening of 630 Acres to the Bay

John Krause, DFG Wildlife Biologist (415) 454-8050
Kyle Orr, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8958

Controlled Levee Breach to Launch the Opening of 630 Acres to the Bay

Stimulus-Funded South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Created 40 New Jobs in San Francisco Bay Area

On Sept. 13, the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) will mark a major milestone in the decades-long effort to restore wetlands in theSan Francisco Bay. After a 1 p.m.ceremony, DFG’s contractor will conduct a controlled levee breach of the first of eight breaches in the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, allowing Bay waters, fish and other wildlife back in to 630 acres of former wetlands along theshore of  Hayward and Union City.

“We have lost the overwhelming majority of our wetlands here inCalifornia. It is our responsibility to protect and restore the areas we do have,” said California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird. “This project is a great example of what can be accomplished with cooperation and long-term vision. The restoration of these wetlands will provide much needed habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife, while moving California toward a healthier ecosystem.”

The breach of this levee, along with seven that will follow in coming weeks will open earthen berms built by salt-making companies and flood-control projects in the 19th and 20th centuries. As excavators take the last bite out of a berm along Pond E8A, inundating it, they will be laying the groundwork for the reestablishment of tidal salt marshes that were eliminated by the construction of the levees.

Bay waters and adjacent creek inflows introduced this month are expected to bring fish, crabs, harbor seals and other marine life as well as multitudes of native and migratory birds back into previously diked ponds. The water will also bring sediments that will settle into the pond and provide a bed for the regrowth of pickleweed, marsh gumplant, saltgrass and other native tidal marsh plants that provide habitat for the endangered California clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mouse.

The opening of Ponds E8A, E9 and E8X – three former salt evaporation ponds in Eden Landing – marks the first South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project construction project completed on state-owned lands.

Restoration efforts on the 630 acres were partly funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) grants through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Eden Landing construction project created 40 jobs in addition to making a significant step toward wetlands restoration in the Bay.

As of the completion of this work, the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project has restored nearly 3,000 acres of salt ponds to tidal action in theSouthBay. The project is the largest tidal wetland restoration effort on the West Coast. Its goal is to restore at least 7,500 acres to tidal marsh habitat, while also enhancing pond habitat, expanding Bay access and recreation, and improving flood protection.

 “This marsh restoration project doubles the area of the Reserve now open to the tides,” said John Krause, the DFG Wildlife Biologist who manages the Reserve. “It’s a very different landscape from what it was five years ago.”

 The work at the three ponds was conducted through a collaborative partnership between by DFG, NOAA, the State Coastal Conservancy, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, and other local partners.

NOAA has provided a total of $7.4 million in ARRA funds to the South Bay Salt Pond Project to create jobs and restore habitats in and around the Bay. The funds helped not only the 630-acre Eden Landing restoration, which received $3.2 million in grants, but a total of 2,360 acres of project restoration work, as well as contributing to the battle against invasive Spartina, a non-native cordgrass that degrades marsh and mudflat habitat.

Reporters and photographers should arrive at the Eden Landing Ponds Ecological Reserve at 12:45 p.m. for the opening ceremonies, including remarks by honored guests and an opportunity to view the breach. In the event of rain, the ceremony will be rescheduled.

About the South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project
The South Bay Salt Pond Restoration Project is the largest tidal wetland restoration project on the West Coast. When complete, the restoration will convert thousands of former commercial salt ponds to a mix of tidal marsh, mudflat, managed pond and other wetland habitats. The project will also provide flood management and opportunities for wildlife-oriented public access and recreation. The 15,100 acre property was purchased from Cargill in March, 2003 using state and federal funds as well as private funds from the Hewlett, Packard, Moore and Goldman Foundations. The California Wildlife Conservation Board contributed $72 million of the $100 million purchase price from Proposition 40 and Proposition 50 bond funds. These lands are managed by DFG as part of the Eden Landing Ecological Reserve and FWS as part of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Shortly after the property was purchased, DFG, FWS and the State Coastal Conservancy launched a five-year public process to design a restoration plan for the property. The final plan was adopted in 2008 and the first phase of restoration began in 2009. For detailed information about the project, please visit  http://www.southbayrestoration.org/.

Ecosystem Restoration Program Grant Recipients Announced

Media Contacts:
Carol Atkins, DFG Water Branch, (916) 445-0074
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988

The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has selected 12 projects to be funded through the CALFED Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP). The 12 selected projects will receive immediate funding, while three additional projects have been designated as “reconsider if revised,” which allows the applicants to make revisions and resubmit the proposal. Together, the 15 projects total just over $18 million. A list of the projects and further details can be found at www.dfg.ca.gov/ERP/grants_2010_grants_psp.asp.

The ERP is a multi-agency effort aimed at improving and increasing aquatic and terrestrial habitats and ecological function in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its tributaries.

Priority was given to projects that support the ERP Conservation Strategy and work to restore or enhance habitat in the Delta and Suisun Marsh and Bay, research projects that will test hypotheses related to conservation measures in the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, and construction projects that will improve water quality in the Delta. The projects will be funded from multiple bond sources including Propositions 13, 84 and 204.

“I am particularly pleased with the diversity in the types of projects approved for this funding cycle,” said DFG Director Charlton Bonham. “They range from hands-on restoration projects that will restore critical Delta habitat, to management tools for exploring the impacts of our resource management decisions so that we can understand the potential effects of our decisions before actually implementing them.”

Bonham noted that the timing of the grant cycle is particularly fortuitous, as DFG will be able to partner on several of the projects and leverage the limited grants funding to stretch every dollar.

Questions about the proposals should be directed to Carol Atkins, DFG Staff Environmental Scientist, at catkins@dfg.ca.gov or (916) 445-0074.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife News