New study will help protect vulnerable birds from impacts of climate change

clapper rail
The clapper rail is one of the at-risk birds identified by the climate change study.

Contacts:
Lyann Comrack, DFG Wildlife Biologist, (916) 341-6981
Carol Singleton, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8962
Tom Gardali, PRBO Ecologist, (415) 868-0655 ext. 381
Melissa Pitkin, PRBO Communications (707) 781-2555 ext. 307  

Scientists from the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and PRBO Conservation Science have completed an innovative study on the effects of climate change on vulnerable birds. This first-of-its-kind study prioritizes which species are most at risk and will help guide conservation measures in California.The study was published today in the journal PLoS ONE. 

“What’s most exciting about the study is that our unique approach is one that other scientists and resource managers can duplicate to help them conserve wildlife in the face of climate change,” said PRBO Ecologist Tom Gardali, the study’s lead author. 

“Not only does our study look at which birds will be most at risk given a changed climate, it also evaluates how climate change, piled on top of all the existing threats such as development and invasive species, will affect birds. This gives a more comprehensive picture, and provides the information necessary to help allocate scarce dollars for conservation.” 

The study combines existing stressors such as habitat loss and degradation with the vulnerability of California’s bird species to projected climate change impacts to produce a prioritized list of at-risk species for conservation action. The research shows that nearly 130 species of birds are vulnerable to the predicted effects of climate change and that 21 of the state’s 29 threatened and endangered bird species (72 percent) will be further impacted by climate change, increasing their risk of extinction. 

“Lists of at-risk species like ours are simply a first step. Now conservationists and resource managers need to use the list and other resources to identify how best to spend limited conservation dollars to benefit birds, other wildlife and human communities,” noted Dr. Nat Seavy, study co-author and PRBO scientist. 

The study also found that wetland species are more vulnerable than other groups of birds because they are specialized on habitats that will be threatened by sea level rise and changes in precipitation. The most vulnerable wetland birds include the California black rail, California and Yuma clapper rails and three species of song sparrow found only in the tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay. Species that make a living at sea or near-shore waters and that nest on islands or rocky shores are also highly vulnerable. These species include the Cassin’s auklet, common murre, black oystercatcher and the iconic white and brown pelicans. 

“By using this information to prioritize and implement conservation actions now, managers can help to reduce negative impacts of climate change,” said DFG Chief Deputy Director Kevin Hunting. “This research is yet another example of how the DFG and partners like PRBO are actively addressing climate change, engaging in adaptation planning, and taking important steps towards safeguarding fish, wildlife, and habitats across the state for future generations to enjoy.”

The complete list of species and the climate vulnerability scores are available online through the California Avian Data Center (http://data.prbo.org/apps/bssc/index.php?page=climate-change-vulnerability). 

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Wolf OR7 Returns to Oregon

Media Contacts:
Kirsten Macintyre, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8988
Eric Loft, DFG Wildlife Branch, (916) 445-3555
Karen Kovacs, DFG Region 1 Wildlife Program, (530) 225-2312

After drawing much public attention for his historic trek into California, the gray wolf designated as OR7 has turned north and crossed back into Oregon.

Originally part of a wolfpack in northeastern Oregon, OR7 wandered more than 1,062 miles in Oregon in September through December of last year before crossing into California last December 28. Gray wolves were extirpated in California the 1920s, leading to speculation that OR7 might be the first wolf to reestablish roots in the Golden State.

While in California, the wolf trekked south through eastern Siskiyou County, traveled through northeastern Shasta County and then resided in Lassen County for a few weeks. On Feb. 11 he re-entered Shasta County and then, about a week later, he crossed north into Siskiyou County. The Department of Fish and Game (DFG) has continued to monitor his whereabouts through the use of a satellite tracking collar, and has been updating his status on our website at www.dfg.ca.gov/wolf/.

DFG biologists who have been closely monitoring the wolf’s position and progress say they have been impressed with his ability to travel considerable distances into new territory and then return, following a different route, to locations he has previously visited (possibly through his use of scent-marking), sometimes after a few weeks have passed.

Over the past two months, DFG has received many telephone calls and e-mails reporting sightings of OR7, but nearly all of these reports were inconsistent with the satellite location data. Photographs and physical descriptions provided to DFG by the public were consistently determined to be an animal other than a wolf (usually a coyote in winter pelt). In some cases, the available information was insufficient to make any confident determination of the species observed. However, in the past few days OR7 may have been observed in northern Siskiyou County.

In at least one instance, private citizens photographed tracks likely to have been made by OR7. Some of those photographs are available for viewing on DFG’s website.

After traveling 900 miles in California (calculated as air miles, not the actual distance traveled, which was greater), OR7 crossed the state line from Siskiyou County and back into Oregon on March 1. DFG biologists have described his behavior as dispersal, where a young wolf seeks to find a mate or another wolf pack. That search has not been resolved for OR7 in California and his next movements cannot be predicted with any certainty. It remains possible he will return to California in the future.

Draft Environmental Impact Report Now Available for Proposed North Coast Marine Protected Areas

Media Contacts:
Susan Ashcraft, Department of Fish and Game, (916) 445-6451
Adrianna Shea, California Fish and Game Commission, (916) 653-4899
Jordan Traverso, Department of Fish and Game, (916) 654-9937
 
A Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) is now complete for the Marine Protected Area (MPA) proposals covering California’s North Coast Study Region. A 45-day public comment and review period will run through April 16.
 
The DEIR analyzes the potential environmental impacts of the MPA proposal currently under consideration for this area, which extends from Alder Creek, Near Point Arena in Mendocino County, to the California/Oregon border. The DEIR also analyzes two project alternatives. The MPA proposals are part of the larger Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) process, which will create new MPAs along the length of California’s coastline.
 
The DEIR was prepared by the California Fish and Game Commission with assistance from the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) as part of the required environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act. The process began in September 2011 with a public scoping phase, during which DFG solicited comments on the range of issues and type of information that should be considered in the DEIR. These comments helped to shape the content of the DEIR released this week.
 
The DEIR is now available to the public on DFG’s website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/mlpa/impact_nc.asp. Printed copies of the DEIR and related documents are available at the following public library locations: Del Norte County’s Crescent City Branch and Smith River Branch libraries; Humboldt County’s Eureka Branch, Trinidad Branch, Hoopa Branch, Ferndale Branch, Fortuna Branch, and Rio Dell libraries; Mendocino County’s Ukiah Branch, Willits Branch, Round Valley, Fort Bragg, and Coast Community Branch libraries; Sacramento County Public Library; and at the following DFG field offices:
 
•  California Department of Fish and Game:  619 Second Street, Eureka, CA 95501 (707-445-6493);
•  California Department of Fish and Game: 2330 N. Harbor Drive, Fort Bragg, CA 95437 (707-964-9078).
 
PUBLIC HEARINGS: Three public hearings will be held for the public to present written and/or verbal comments on the DEIR at the following locations and times:
 
•  Fort Bragg: Tuesday, March 20, 2012 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Fort Bragg Town Hall (363 N. Main Street, Fort Bragg, CA 95437);
•  Crescent City: Wednesday, March 21, 2012 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the Del Norte County Board Chamber Building (981 H Street, Crescent City, CA 95531); and
•  Eureka: Wednesday, April 11, 2012 at the Red Lion Hotel (1929 Fourth Street, Eureka, CA 95501). Note that this is a Commission meeting, at which public comments on the proposed MLPA regulations and the DEIR will be received.
 
Written comments may be mailed to the following address:
 
MLPA North Coast CEQA Comments
Department of Fish and Game
c/o Horizon Water and Environment
P.O. Box 2727
Oakland, CA 94602
 
Comments may also be submitted via e-mail to MLPAcomments@HorizonWater.com. E-mailed comments must include “MLPA CEQA Comments” in the subject line.
 
All comments (mailed or e-mailed) must include the commentor’s name, address and daytime telephone number.
 
All comments must be post-marked no later than 5 p.m. on April 16 in order to be considered for inclusion in the Final EIR.

Top Bear Aware Youth Film Contest Entries Now Open to Public Voting

Media Contact: Carol Singleton, DFG Communications Office, (916) 322-8962

Public judging is now under way for the top six entries in the Department of Fish and Game’s (DFG) “Bear Aware” Youth Film Contest.

High school filmmakers from Grass Valley to Lodi submitted 40 short films to the contest. The top six films, selected by a panel of judges, have been posted in random order on DFG’s website for the public to view and vote for their favorite. Of the six final films 4 were produced by students from Woodcreek High School in Roseville, one by students from Lodi High School and one by students from Colfax High School. Judging will close at 5 p.m. on March 10.

Members of the public are invited to view the films at www.dfg.ca.gov/BearFilmContest/TopFilms.html and e-mail the number of their favorite entry to bearfilmcontest@dfg.ca.gov. Only one vote per e-mail address will be counted. The winner of the Public Choice Award will receive a $100 gift card to REI. 

The students created the public service announcements to help DFG with its “Bear Aware” public outreach efforts. The “Bear Aware” campaign is aimed at educating residents and visitors of the Lake Tahoe Basin about the importance of securing food and trash to eliminate attractants for black bears. 

The Public Choice Award is in addition to the judging panel’s selections, which include a first place prize of $500, a second place prize of $300, a third place prize of $200 and $100 for the three Honorable Mentions. Prize money was donated by California Houndsmen for Conservation. (Californiahoundsmen.com)

The six Judge’s Choice awards and the Public Choice award will be announced the week of March 13.

Students were provided footage of black bears to include in their films. In addition, they were given a list of “Keep Me Wild” messages, from which they were required to use three. These key messages included tips for Lake Tahoe homeowners on how to make their homes an unwelcome place for bears and advice to visitors to always keep a clean campsite and secure food and trash. More information on Keep Me Wild can be found at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/keepmewild/.

Because this year’s inaugural contest was focused on bears in the Lake Tahoe area, the contest was limited to high school students in Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, El Dorado, Glenn, Lake, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Sacramento, San Joaquin, Sierra, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. DFG recognizes that the Keep Me Wild messages are applicable to wildlife elsewhere in the state, and is considering expanding the geographic range of the contest in the future.

DFG to Host Southern California Natural Resource Volunteer Academy

The California Department of Fish and Game (DFG) is recruiting applicants for the Natural Resource Volunteer Program (NRVP) to serve in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

The NRVP provides conservation and enforcement education through public service while providing biological, enforcement and administrative staff support to DFG.

DFG is holding an NRVP training academy in Los Alamitos from April 19 to May 2, Monday through Friday. Graduates of this academy become volunteers for DFG. These positions are unpaid.

Interested individuals go through a selection process which includes initial screening, application, interview and background check. If selected, individuals attend an 80-hour conservation course to prepare them for a monthly service commitment of at least 24 hours. After completing the academy, volunteers work with a trained volunteer mentor implementing their newly acquired skills during a six-month probationary period.

Applicants should be teachable, accountable, have basic computer and writing skills and a willingness to talk about conservation principles to the public in the field and in a classroom setting. Applicants must show a desire to work well with others in a team environment to do tasks that free up time for paid DFG staff.

DFG Natural Resource Volunteers have no law enforcement authority and are trained to be educational ambassadors for the department, donating their time in a variety of areas. Some of these areas include responding to human/wildlife incident calls, instructing at NRVP academies, representing DFG at community outreach events, patrolling DFG lands, ecological reserves, and coastal and inland fishing areas, and disseminating useful information to the public.

Applications must be received by April 13, 2012. Please contact Lt. Kent Smirl at (714) 448-4215 prior to submitting an application.

Further information and an application can be found on the NRVP website at http://www.dfg.ca.gov/volunteer/NRVP/.

Media Contacts:    
Kent Smirl, DFG Law Enforcement, (714) 448-4215
Andrew Hughan, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8944