Tag Archives: fish

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

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Streamflow Enhancement Projects

At its March 9 Streamflow Enhancement meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $20 million of Proposition 1 Funds in grants through the Streamflow Enhancement Program. The program awards grant funding on a competitive basis to projects that represent the mission of the WCB and address the three goals of the California Water Action Plan: reliability, restoration and resilience.

Of the 24 funded projects, 10 are implementation projects, 13 are planning projects and one is an acquisition. All are predicted to result in significant enhancement to the amount, timing and/or quality of water available for anadromous fish and special status, threatened, endangered or at risk species, or bolster resilience to climate change. Some of the funded projects are:

  • A $2.2 million grant to California Trout (CalTrout) for a cooperative project with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Natural Resources Conservation Service, The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences to dedicate, through a California Water Code section 1707 transfer, 1.5 cubic feet per second (cfs) of cold water to the Little Shasta River through a combination of on-farm efficiency savings and voluntary flow contributions, located on privately owned land six miles east of Montague in Siskiyou County.
  • An $800,000 grant to the Plumas Corporation for a cooperative project with the California Department of Water Resources, California State University, Sacramento and the U.S. Forest Service to implement a long term monitoring program that accurately quantifies the flow of water from mountain meadow landscapes, to document the effectiveness of restoration efforts within Tulare, Fresno, Calaveras, El Dorado, Sierra, Plumas and Lassen counties.
  • A $4.5 million grant to Monterey Peninsula Regional Parks District for a cooperative project with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), California State Coastal Conservancy, California Natural Resources Agency, Trust for Public Land and California American Water Company, to acquire approximately 185 acres of private land and its associated water rights along the Carmel River, approximately one mile east of Carmel-by-the-Sea in Monterey County.
  • A $3.4 million grant to the Dry Creek Rancheria Band of Pomo Indians for a cooperative project with the Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, USFWS and Bureau of Indian Affairs to implement 16 restoration actions. These actions, designed to enhance flows and improve ecological conditions and geomorphic processes, span a project area of approximately 91 acres within the Dry Creek Rancheria, and will improve and restore habitat for endangered steelhead and Coho salmon in Rancheria Creek.
  • A $132,000 grant to TNC for a cooperative planning project between Trout Unlimited and CalTrout. The objectives of this project are to develop an efficient process and model for water rights holders to dedicate water for instream flows in the Shasta River watershed, to provide information to practitioners via outreach and to develop straightforward processes for analyzing consumptive use.
  • A $941,000 grant to the Immaculate Heart Community/La Casa de Maria (LCDM) Retreat and Conference Center for a cooperative project with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, American Tanks & Loomis Tanks and the California Conservation Corps to offset existing agricultural irrigation, landscaping and non-potable domestic water use. The capture and reuse of up to 800,000 gallons of water through onsite rainwater reuse, storm water management and irrigation conservation will allow LCDM to abstain from seasonal diversion and use of a riparian water right, and dedicate approximately 7 million gallons of water annually to instream flow, thereby enhancing creek base flows and steelhead trout habitat on San Ysidro Creek.
  • A $2.3 million grant to the Mission Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the La Pata Mitigation Project, Integrated Regional Water Management, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and local agencies to control 98 acres of the invasive plant, Arundo donax on 17.8 river miles in the San Juan, Santa Margarita, San Luis Rey and San Diego watersheds in Orange and San Diego Counties. This WCB project will fund activities that are part of existing watershed programs, so will have benefits in terms of long-term success/follow-up, outreach and a large-scale watershed-based approach.

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

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

Featured photo: Riparian habitat on the Cosumnes River in El Dorado County. Courtesy of American River Conservancy

Nimbus Hatchery Releases 420,000 American River Steelhead

Nearly a half million young steelhead recently started their journey to the ocean, thanks to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). Staff at Nimbus Fish Hatchery nursed the young steelhead through several potentially devastating conditions, including drought-induced high water temperatures in the hatchery last summer and winter flood conditions that nearly cut off usable water supplies and carried dangerous levels of silt into the hatchery’s normally clean water distribution system.160224-CDFW-STEELHEAD-1830

“The fish we released will be returning to the American River over the next two to four years, and we are proud and relieved to have brought them this far,” said Gary Novak, the Nimbus Hatchery manager. “Steelhead are hardy, but considering their size and the number of environmental obstacles cropping up in rapid succession, they still needed human intervention in the hatchery to ensure a better chance of survival in the wild.”

All 420,000 young steelhead were released into the American River just upstream of the I Street Bridge in Sacramento. Due to the high water conditions, the juvenile fish are expected to make excellent time traveling down the Sacramento River to the Bay and eventually on to the Pacific Ocean. Losses to predators are believed to be lower during turbid water and high flow conditions.

During January and February 2017, water releases from Nimbus Dam reached 80,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is well above the normal 6,000 to 10,000 cfs. The high flows created conditions that dislodged exceptional amounts of debris, clogging the intake structure at Nimbus Fish Hatchery and creating near-lethal levels of nitrogen in the water. Hatchery staff worked around the clock over a month-long period to keep the water intake open, clear water distribution points, tanks and raceways of silt, and install aerators to lower nitrogen levels.

Fish health assessments by CDFW pathologists found the steelhead to be in satisfactory condition and near the average weight for fish their age prior to release. It remains to be seen how the stressors of living in turbid water and enduring some periods of high nitrogen levels will affect the fish. Annual returns of mature steelhead to Nimbus Hatchery have varied widely in recent years, from a high of 3,409 in 2013 to a low of just 150 the following year.

All the fish in this release were marked with an adipose fin clip.

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Media Contacts:
Jay Rowan, CDFW North Central Region, (916) 358-2883

Harry Morse, CDFW Communications, (916) 323-1478

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

At its Nov. 16 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $28 million in grants to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California, including the Salton Sea. Some of the 17 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, 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 $14 million grant to the California Department of Water Resources for a cooperative project to construct approximately 640 acres of wetland habitat, including deep water channels, shallow ponds, island refugia and nesting structures. The project will enhance habitat for fish-eating birds on the edge of the Salton Sea at the terminus of the New River, seven miles northwest of the City of Westmorland in Imperial County.
  • $2.2 million to acquire approximately 624 acre-feet of water and storage rights in Heenan Lake for protection of the Lahontan cutthroat trout fishery located near Markleeville in Alpine County.
  • A $3.7 million grant to the Land Trust of Napa County for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy, California Natural Resources Agency and others to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 7,266 acres of land. This will preserve and protect managed forest lands, riparian corridors and watersheds that support rare and special status wildlife species and vegetation near the City of Calistoga in Napa County.
  • A $415,000 grant to the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy and California Natural Resources Agency to acquire a conservation easement over approximately 133 acres of land. This will protect important watersheds, including stream and source waters, and maintain native terrestrial communities and landscape connectivity near Scotts Valley.
  • A $3.4 million grant to the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority for a cooperative project with the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the County of Los Angeles, to acquire approximately 71 acres of land. This will protect chaparral, coastal sage scrub, native grasslands and oak woodland-savannah habitat, enhance wildlife linkages, protect watersheds and provide future wildlife-oriented public use opportunities near the City of Agoura in Ventura County.

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

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

Nimbus Hatchery Fish Ladder to Open Nov. 2

 

The salmon ladder at Nimbus Hatchery in Rancho Cordova will open Wednesday, Nov. 2, signaling the start of the spawning season on the American River. California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hatchery workers will open the ladder gates at 10:45 a.m. Hatchery employees may take more than a half-million eggs during the first week of operation alone in an effort to ensure the successful spawning of the returning fall run Chinook salmon.

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There are eight state-run salmon and steelhead hatcheries, all of which will participate in the salmon spawning effort. Over the next two months, the three major state-run hatcheries in the Central Valley – the Nimbus Hatchery in Sacramento County, the Feather River Hatchery in Butte County and the Mokelumne River Hatchery in San Joaquin County – will take approximately 24 million eggs in order to produce Chinook salmon for release next spring.

Each hatchery has a viewing area where visitors can watch the spawning process. The visitors’ center at Nimbus Hatchery also includes a playground with replicas of giant salmon that are enjoyed by young and old alike. For more information about spawning schedules and educational opportunities at each hatchery, please visit the CDFW website at www.wildlife.ca.gov/fishing/hatcheries.

Together, state and federally operated hatcheries raise 40 million juvenile salmon for release into California waters each year. Once the young salmon reach 2 to 4 inches in length, one-quarter of the stock are marked and implanted with coded wire tags prior to release. CDFW biologists use the information from the tags to chart survival, catch and return rates. These massive spawning and tracking efforts were put in place over the last 50 years to offset fish losses caused by dams that block salmon from historic spawning habitat.

Media Contacts:
Laura Drath, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (916) 358-2884
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944