Tag Archives: Rare and Endangered Species Preservation

Elkhorn Slough OtterCam Goes High Definition

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been upgraded from standard to high-definition, and there is now a second HD video camera focused on sea otters, thanks to the generous support of the Acacia Foundation and the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS). Now anyone can watch California’s adorable sea otters in HD by going to www.elkhornslough.org/ottercam.

Located in areas of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve’s salt marshes where sea otters often congregate, the two new cameras offer great image clarity and fine detail for viewing this iconic Monterey Bay marine mammal and a teeming cast of other Elkhorn Slough wildlife. Elkhorn Slough Ecological Reserve is managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW).

The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam HD video streams will be featured as part of the PBS/BBC Big Blue Live television and online event, Aug. 31 through Sept. 2 (at www.pbs.org/big-blue-live/live-cams/elkhorn-slough-otter-cam). Anchored from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the three-day, live televised event will highlight the amazing marine life that converges off California’s central coast. The Big Blue Live website links to live cameras, including the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam.

Elkhorn Slough is home to the largest concentration of endangered southern sea otters (enhydra lutris nereis) on the California coast, and the first webcam dedicated to streaming live video of wild southern sea otters in their natural habitat. The Elkhorn Slough OtterCam has been streaming live video online from the tidal salt marshes of the Elkhorn Slough Reserve since 2012. The upgrade to high-definition enhances the OtterCam for both researchers and visitors.

For almost two years, researchers have used the Elkhorn Slough OtterCam to observe sea otter behavior such as foraging, grooming and raising pups. Stationed on the edge of the slough, the camera looks across pickleweed marsh and tidal channels of the slough. These channels are frequented largely by female otters and appear to be used as a nursery, as sea otters with pups are regularly seen in the meandering channels. During the past three years, the camera has provided video and still photographs documenting the growth of otter pups, interactions with harbor seals and other wildlife, and the movement of otters throughout the slough.

“The OtterCam has opened a unique window on the lives of sea otters. There are times we are seeing 25 or more otters in the protected channels of the slough’s marsh,” Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) Executive Director Mark Silberstein said. “This suggests there may be more otters residing in the slough than previously thought. We’ve witnessed some unique behaviors, such as hauling out of the water, resting and grooming in the pickleweed marshes.”

Research is underway to better understand how sea otters are using the estuary, with the hope of helping southern sea otters recover in other parts of their historic range. In turn, recent evidence suggests that sea otters may yield important ecological benefits to the estuaries they inhabit. A study published by reserve researcher Brent Hughes in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that sea otters enhance the health of subtidal seagrass beds, as they do in kelp forests.

“We are pleased to present these remarkable images from the Elkhorn Slough Reserve, and shine a light on sea otter use of the estuary,” Reserve Manager Dave Feliz said. “The behavior of these animals in a salt marsh is little understood, yet the story is unfolding before the eyes of the world on ElkhornSlough.org. CDFW is happy to be a part of this new chapter in sea otter life history.”

Elkhorn Slough, in the central Monterey Bay area, encompasses a wide variety of habitats – oak woodlands, maritime chaparral, coastal prairie and the largest tract of tidal salt marsh in California south of San Francisco Bay – that support an incredible abundance and diversity of life. Elkhorn Slough hosts 550 species of marine invertebrates and 100 species of fish, as well as resident sea lions, harbor seals and the highest concentration of southern sea otters on the West Coast. On the Pacific flyway, Elkhorn Slough bird numbers can soar during migration seasons, nearly doubling the resident bird counts. The slough is designated a Globally Important Bird area, with more than 340 species identified in and around the slough.

ESF is a community-supported non-profit land trust whose mission is to conserve and restore the Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. ESF protects 4,000 acres of rare habitat including oak woodlands, maritime chaparral and wetlands. Since 1982, ESF has been the non-profit partner of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve (ESNERR).

ESNERR is managed by CDFW with administrative assistance from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. ESNERR is one of 28 reserves established nationwide to support long-term research, water-quality monitoring, environmental education and coastal stewardship.

For information about ESF and ESNERR, and to support the conservation of Elkhorn Slough, please visit ElkhornSlough.org and CDFW Elkhorn Slough.

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Media Contacts:
Dave Feliz, CDFW Elkhorn Slough Reserve, (831) 728-2822
Scott Nichols, Elkhorn Slough Foundation, (831) 728-5939
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

May 15 is the 10th National Endangered Species Day

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) recognizes the 10th National Endangered Species Day with a focused environmental concern. The purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to conserve imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend to prevent extinction. Special activities are scheduled at the zoos in San Diego, Santa Ana, Los Angeles and San Francisco, at Yosemite National Park, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge, San Diego Botanic Gardens, Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro, Buena Vista Audubon Society Nature Center, San Francisco Zoo and Sacramento’s Beach Lake Park. Visit www.endangeredspeciesday.org to learn more. California, with all its geographic variety, has tremendous biological diversity. Our state supports more than 5,000 native plants and more than 1,000 native animal species. At least one third of the plants and two thirds of the animals here are endemic species that occur nowhere else in the world. Of all these species, more than 300 are designated by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. There are 133 species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act in California. Loss of habitat, water management conflicts, invasive species, poaching and climate change are the greatest threats to their long-term survival. The combination of wildfires and extreme drought conditions in most of the state add to the pressures on our already-stressed wild plants and animals. CDFW is paying special attention to priority listed species and other sensitive native wildlife that are in areas most severely affected by the drought. Emergency drought funds support projects that transferred water to critical fish and wildlife populations that might not have survived the continuing severe dry conditions without it. Examples of actions taken last year include the flooding of wetland habitats for giant garter snakes in State Wildlife Areas and the relocation of stranded salmon and steelhead. CDFW is establishing fish and wildlife stressor monitoring to assess the drought’s effects and identify key support projects for high-priority listed species such as Amargosa vole, tri-colored blackbird, salmon and species that occur in the San Joaquin Valley. One endangered plant is Butte County meadowfoam (Limnanthes floccosa ssp. californica), a small annual plant that only occurs at the bottom of rocky vernal pools in Butte County. The species has been protected at CDFW’s Stone Ridge and North Table Mountain Ecological Reserves, and although several thousand plants were observed at Stone Ridge this year, only 107 plants were counted at North Table Mountain, which is open to the public and offers fantastic spring wildflower viewing. Endangered Species Day was started in 2006 by the U.S. Senate to raise awareness of and celebrate these disappearing plant and animal species, and draw attention to successful recovery programs and opportunities for the public to get involved. It also honors the people who uphold the legacy of the Act while inspiring the next generation of conservation leaders. To learn more about CDFW’s drought-related actions to protect California’s fish and wildlife, visit www.wildlife.ca.gov/drought.

Gray owl on tree branch
A great gray owl in Sierra National Forest near Oakhurst. Chris Stermer/CDFW photo
Orange and yellow globe-like flower
Pitkin marsh lily, (lilium pardalinum), a state-listed endangered species. Roxanne Bittman/DFG photo
gray freshwater fish with salmon-colored sides and gills in clear stream
Rare Paiute cutthroat trout in a remote Alpine County stream. CDFW photo.
A red fox with black legs and ears, sitting in snow
Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora Pass area, Mono County. CDFW photo
A light brown vole in a gloved hand
Captive Amargosa vole. Don Preisler/UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine
Western pond turtle on dry gravel
Western pond turtle. Christina Sousa/CDFW photo
a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
Tan and brown giant garter snake
Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo

Media Contacts: Daniel Applebee, CDFW Wildlife Branch, (209) 588-1879 Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

You Can Help Something Wild When You File!

There’s still time to help endangered species on your California income tax return, if you haven’t yet filed it. Near the end of Form 540 there is a section called Voluntary Contributions where you can donate one dollar or more to the Rare and Endangered Species Fund (line 403) and/or the California Sea Otter Fund (line 410). If you itemize deductions, the amount you donate this year will be tax-deductible next year.

With more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of California’s animals listed as rare, threatened or endangered, a great deal of work is needed to recover them. Donations on Line 403 help pay for essential California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Tiburon mariposa lily, California tiger salamander, giant garter snake, yellow-billed cuckoo and island fox are among the species CDFW is currently working on to ensure they survive well into the future.

California’s southern sea otter population remains below 3,000, so Enhydra lutris is still a fully protected species under state law and listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act. Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in this species. These studies should help us better understand the causes of mortality and contribute to population recovery efforts.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

CDFW scientists work with their counterparts in other government agencies, nonprofit organizations and the private sector to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Help Endangered Species With Your Tax Return

Would you like to help protect California’s rare, threatened and endangered species? The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) invites you to do that by making a voluntary contribution to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program and/or the

two sea otters floating on their backs, touching forepaws, with caption "Will U Be My Valentine?"
California Sea Otter Fund Valentine. Joe Robertson photo used with permission.

California Sea Otter Fund on your California income tax return. Just enter the dollar amount you wish to donate on lines 403 and/or 410 of your tax return (form 540). If you itemize deductions, you can deduct the amount you donate on next year’s return.

“Donations to these funds have helped CDFW study species that are in trouble, determine what they need to thrive and develop ways to improve their health and populations,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “Californians continue to show they understand and care about threatened and endangered species, and the need to protect their habitat.”

One of CDFW’s tax donation funds facilitates recovery of the southern sea otter, which is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act and as a Fully Protected Species under state law. A 2014 survey indicated there are fewer than 3,000 sea otters in California waters – a fraction of their historic numbers. This small population is vulnerable to oil spills, environmental pollution, predation by white sharks and other threats.

Donations to the California Sea Otter Fund support research by CDFW scientists, who are currently studying 15 years of sea otter mortality information and recently discovered viruses not previously known in sea otters. These studies should provide a better understanding of mortality causes and contribute to population recovery efforts.

Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program support numerous conservation projects for California’s rare, threatened and endangered species, including:

a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.
  • Santa Cruz long-toed salamander: Known to exist in only a few locations in Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. CDFW works with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Santa Cruz County Resource Conservation District to create and enhance habitat for this species on preserves that have been set aside for its conservation.

    Small island fox pup held in gloved hands
    Island fox pup. Deana Clifford photo
  • Island fox: Small foxes that live on the Channel Islands off of Southern California. CDFW has worked with public and private partners to increase the number of foxes on all of the islands from a few hundred to more than 5,800 foxes.
  • Yellow-billed cuckoo: Rare and secretive birds that have declined markedly with the destruction of riparian habitat in California. CDFW is working with multiple partners to survey and monitor them and to implement recovery actions.

    Brown and orange giant garter snake
    Female orange giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • Giant garter snake: A highly aquatic snake whose marsh habitat in the Central Valley has likely been further reduced in some areas by drought. CDFW has been working with the multiple partners to ensure water is delivered to important areas for the species’ survival.

    Tan and brown giant garter snake
    Female, standard brown giant garter snake. Eric Hansen photo
  • California tiger salamander: The vernal pools that this species typically breeds in have also likely been impacted by the drought in some areas. CDFW is working with multiple partners to coordinate studies of these colorful salamanders and to protect their habitat.

    a dark gray salamander on wet dirt
    Santa Cruz Long-Toed Salamander. David Laabs photo.

CDFW biologists have been able to achieve important recovery milestones to conserve vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers like you. More information about how CDFW uses funds in the Rare and Endangered Species Protection and Sea Otter programs is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

The state has listed more than 200 species of plants and 80 species of animals as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax donation program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

Media Contacts:
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Joint Release of Federal Recovery Plan for Salmon and Steelhead and Conservation Strategy for California’s Ecosystem Restoration Program

noaa cdfw logos

SACRAMENO, Calif. – NOAA Fisheries and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) today jointly released two plans to restore populations of salmon and steelhead in California’s Central Valley: NOAA Fisheries’ Chinook Salmon and Steelhead Recovery Plan and CDFW’s Ecosystem Restoration Program (ERP) Conservation Strategy.

The two plans are complementary in that CDFW’s conservation strategy presents a broader framework for restoring aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems throughout the Central Valley, while the federal recovery plan focuses on the recovery of endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon, threatened Central Valley spring-run Chinook salmon, and threatened Central Valley steelhead.

A shared goal of both plans is to remove these species from federal and state lists of endangered and threatened species. The recovery plan provides a detailed road map for how to reach that goal. It lays out a science-based strategy for recovery and identifies the actions necessary to restore healthy salmon and steelhead populations to the Central Valley.

“Establishing clear priority watersheds, fish populations and actions is essential to achieve recovery,” said Maria Rea, NOAA Fisheries Assistant Regional Administrator for California’s Central Valley Office. “Implementation of this plan will depend on many parties working collaboratively to pool resources, expertise and programs to recover Chinook salmon and steelhead populations that are part of California’s natural heritage.“

Recovery plans required by the Endangered Species Act are guidance documents, not regulatory requirements, and their implementation depends on the voluntary cooperation of multiple stakeholders at the local, regional, state and national levels.

“The Sacramento Valley joins together a world-renowned mosaic of natural abundance: productive farmlands, meandering rivers that provide habitat and feed salmon and steelhead, wildlife refuges and managed wetlands, and cities and rural communities,” said David Guy, President of the Northern California Water Association. “The recovery plan is a positive step forward–through efficient management of the region’s water resources, water suppliers throughout the Sacramento Valley will continue to work with our conservation partners to help implement the recovery plan and improve ecological conditions in the Sacramento River for multiple species and habitat values.”

The ERP conservation strategy was developed by CDFW collaboratively with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries to help guide environmental restoration and establish adaptive management to improve restoration success in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its watershed. The approach of conservation strategy is to restore or mimic ecological processes and to improve aquatic and terrestrial habitats to support stable, self-sustaining populations of diverse and valuable species.

“It is critical we make strategic investments in our natural resources,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “The funding of these high-priority restoration projects is not only an example of the coordinated effort between state and federal governments, but an example of California’s continued efforts to minimize the effects of drought on fish and wildlife. Central Valley salmon and steelhead deserve nothing less.

California Governor Edmund G. Brown, Jr.’s 2014-15 budget provided CDFW with $38 million to implement enhanced salmon monitoring, restore sensitive habitat, improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges, expand the fisheries restoration grant program, and remove barriers for fish passage. Some of that money will be used on projects recommended by the federal recovery plan.

Dick Pool of the Golden Gate Salmon Association said, “We thank and congratulate the scientists of NOAA Fisheries for their outstanding work in developing the Central Valley Recovery Plan. GGSA and the salmon industry particularly appreciate the fact that the plan includes both short range and long range actions that can reverse the serious salmon and steelhead population declines. GGSA has identified a number of the same projects as needing priority action. We also commend the agency for its diligent efforts to engage the other fishery agencies, the water agencies and the salmon stakeholders in the process. We look forward to assisting in finding ways to get the critical projects implemented.”

The federal recovery plan and state conservation strategy work together as a blueprint of how at-risk species can be restored to sustainable levels.Restoring healthy, viable salmon and steelhead runs will preserve and enhance the commercial, recreational and cultural opportunities for future generations. As the fish populations grow and recover, so too will the economic benefits and long-term fishing opportunities for everyone.

“The Recovery Plan provides a clear framework to better coordinate and align restoration projects in the Delta, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and their tributaries to achieve greater conservation outcomes,” said Jay Ziegler, Director of External Affairs and Policy for The Nature Conservancy. “We are pleased to see the integration of multiple habitat values in the Plan including the importance of expanding lateral river movements to enhance floodplain habitat and recognition of the importance of variable flow regimes to benefit multiple species.”

The development of a recovery plan is an important part in the successful rebuilding of a species because it incorporates information from a multitude of interested parties including scientific researchers, stakeholders and the general public. Since 2007, NOAA Fisheries has held 14 public workshops, produced a draft for public comment, and met with strategic stakeholders to guide the plan’s development and ensure a comprehensive and useful document.

CDFW will be investing considerable resources in improving water conservation on public wildlife refuges in the Central Valley and protecting important salmon stocks that contribute to the state’s fishery. The department has also recently released a restoration grant solicitation which includes salmon and steelhead watersheds in the Central Valley. The solicitation can be found here. Applications are being accepted until August 12, 2014.

More on the NOAA Fisheries Recovery Plan and the CDFW Ecosystem Restoration Program

Contact:
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824

CDFW to Hold Public Meetings on Proposed Low-Flow Closure of the Russian River

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) will hold two public meetings to discuss the proposed low-flow closure changes to the Russian River and North Central Coast streams.

The first meeting is Wednesday, July 30 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, 5550 Skylane Blvd., Suite A, in Santa Rosa. The second meeting is Thursday, July 31 from 3 to 6 p.m. at the Gualala Community Center, 47950 Center St. in Gualala near the intersection of Center Street and South Highway 1.

A CDFW representative will detail the proposed regulation changes. Following the short presentation, interested parties can make comments and provide input that will help shape CDFW’s final recommendation to the Fish and Game Commission, which CDFW anticipates presenting at the Commission’s meeting in Van Nuys in December.

The Russian River and other North Central Coast streams provide critical life-stage habitat for coastal Chinook salmon, coho salmon and steelhead trout. All three of these species are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Coho salmon is also listed under the California ESA.

CDFW is preparing regulatory changes for Title 14, Chapter 3, Article 4, section 8, part (b) to add low-flow fish restrictions to the Russian River and base the closure of North Central Coast streams on one or more stream gauges on rivers that are more representative of these North Central Coast streams than the current regulated flows of the Russian River. These proposed regulatory actions are based upon fishery impact concerns that have arisen during the past three years of drought conditions. During the past two winters, salmon entering these streams were forced to congregate into the remaining pools below restricted passage areas, and then were subject to heavy angling pressure. In both years the Russian River and North Central Coast streams have dropped to mere trickles, yet have remained open to fishing till an emergency closure was enacted by the Fish and Game Commission in February 2014. This emergency action expired on April 30, 2014.

The two public meetings are being led by CDFW to solicit public comments regarding the regulatory changes that are proposed to protect these ESA-listed fish while still providing sport fishing opportunities. In addition to these public meetings, individuals and organizations may submit comments in writing. The written comments can be sent by email to ryan.watanabe@wildlife.ca.gov, or by mail addressed to CDFW, Bay Delta Region, Attn: Ryan Watanabe, 5355 B Skylane Drive, Santa Rosa, CA 95403.

 

Media Contacts:
Ryan Watanabe, CDFW Fisheries Branch, (707) 576-2815
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

CDFW and NOAA Fisheries Introduce Voluntary Drought Initiative to Protect Salmon and Steelhead

nooaa cdfw logosd

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries announced a Voluntary Drought Initiative today designed to protect populations of salmon and steelhead from the effects of the current unprecedented drought.

“This is one of many measures we’re attempting to get us through this extreme drought and keep enough water in the state’s rivers and streams to protect our fish resources,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “I am thankful that water users and landowners came to our agencies with ideas about working together in northern California, which allowed us to take this immediate, voluntary action during this important spawning time and improve regulatory certainty for rural communities.”

The initiative provides a framework for water users to enter into individual agreements with the two agencies in an effort to maintain enough water for fish spawning in specific high priority streams, and implement other collaborative actions like fish rescue, relocation, monitoring and habitat restoration. The geographic focus includes some Sacramento River tributaries (Antelope, Deer and Mill creeks) and the Russian, Shasta and Scott rivers. In return, landowners and water users will benefit from greater regulatory certainty under the federal and state endangered species laws, and may receive incidental take authorizations for California Endangered Species Act (CESA)-listed fish in case a participant unintentionally takes listed fish species while withdrawing water.

Archie “Red” Emmerson, owner of Sierra Pacific Industries and the largest private landowner in California, was among the first to participate in the voluntary program. “This is one of the toughest water years in recent memory for people, cattle and fish,” Emmerson said. “We have learned a great deal about salmon spawning and rearing on our properties. This year we are volunteering to keep additional cold water in the creek to help salmon. We hope working with the fish agencies will give the salmon a better chance to survive this difficult drought.”

This is a temporary, voluntary initiative that is only being implemented during federal and state drought declarations or designations, with the goal of supporting agricultural activities while protecting the survival and recovery of federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) and CESA-listed salmon and steelhead during this crucial time in their life cycle.

“This initiative is a great example of how to we can respond, in a meaningful way, to the ill effects of a drought” said NOAA Fisheries West Coast Regional Administrator William Stelle, Jr. “Instead of fighting over scarce water supplies and possible regulatory violations, we are building partnerships with landowners and water users who value the salmon resources of California. The voluntary salmon protections coming out of these partnerships are significant.”

NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are aware that the State Water Resources Control Board is currently considering curtailing water rights to respond to current drought conditions. This Voluntary Drought Initiative, under the ESA and CESA, is limited to those authorities and responsibilities of NOAA Fisheries and CDFW. However NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are coordinating closely with the State Water Board. While this initiative is separate from the Board’s authorities and independent actions that it may pursue related to the drought, including emergency curtailments, NOAA Fisheries and CDFW intend to support any local cooperative solution formalized through an executed voluntary agreement before the State Water Board as an alternative to mandatory curtailments.

A description of the fish agencies’ Voluntary Drought Initiative can be found at www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/voluntary_drought_initiative.html.

Today, NOAA Fisheries and CDFW are also announcing the execution of the first set of voluntary agreements with key landowners in the Scott and Shasta river watersheds covering land access for fish rescue and providing critical flows to maintain suitable habitat. For copies of those agreements, please continue to check www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/protected_species/salmon_steelhead/voluntary_drought_initiative.html which will be updated as agreements are available.

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.

MOUs:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife Searsville Dam MOU (Stanford University)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Shasta River and Parks Creek MOU (Emmerson)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Antelope Creek MOU (Edwards Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Antelope Creek MOU (Los Molinos Mutual Water Company)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Los Molinos Mutual Water Company)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Nobmann Cattle LLC)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (Peyton Pacific Properties)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Mill Creek MOU (The Nature Conservancy)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Murphy Family Trust)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Michigan Cal)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Barnes)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Gazzarino)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (J. Fowle)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (J. Spencer)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Morris)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Scott River Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Tobias Ranch)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (K. Whipple)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Scott River MOU (Stapleton)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Deer Creek MOU (Deer Creek Irrigation District)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Deer Creek MOU (Grant Leininger)
California Department of Fish and Wildlife Porter Creek MOU (Gallo Vineyards)

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
Jim Milbury, NOAA Fisheries Communications, (562) 980-4006

There’s Still Time to Help Endangered Species on Your Tax Return!

Media Contacts:
Laird  Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

a sea otter in greenish waters off California
Sea otter in California waters. CDFW photo
red fox pounces on something beneath the snow
Sierra Nevada red fox, in Sonora County. CDFW photo
bright orange, trumpet-shaped flowers on a green-stemmed shrub
Large-flowered fiddleneck. Susan Cochrane/CDFW photo
A California condor spreads its wings while standing atop a post
California condor at Pinnacles National Monument. Carie Battistone/CDFW photo
Desert tortoise on dry, rocky desert floor
Desert tortoise in southern California. Rebecca Barboza/CDFW photo
two yellow-legged frogs at the edge of a bubbling stream
Mountain yellow-legged frogs. CDFW photo
a flock of sandhill cranes feeding in wetland, all colored a pinkish-coral by sunrise
Greater sandhill cranes in central California. Bob Burkett photo
yellow flower on green stalk with green leaves on sandy Lake Tahoe beach
Tahoe Yellow Cress. © Aaron E. Sims and CNPS

A popular 1970s bumper sticker said, “Support wildlife…Throw a party!” Now you can support wildlife and throw a party. Just make a voluntary contribution on your California income tax return!  The April 15 due date for income tax returns is nearing, but if you haven’t filed yours yet, it’s not too late to use it to help wildlife.

By donating any whole dollar amount to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of your tax return, you will help pay for research by scientists at the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW). They are studying premature deaths within our sea otter population and finding that there are many contributing factors, some of which are man-made. With enough funding, they should be able to determine the primary causes, then work to develop solutions that will allow the sea otter population to grow at the rate it should.

Another 80 species of animals and more than 200 plants are listed by the state as rare, threatened or endangered. Donations to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Fund on line 403 of your income tax form pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, and critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat.

“We work with other organizations, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, UC and Cal State Universities, California’s state and national parks, U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, and many other organizations to stretch the donations as far as we can,” said CDFW Wildlife Biologist Esther Burkett. “In the Rare and Endangered Species Programs, we’ve leveraged those donations to receive federal matching funds so we can do even more for wildlife.”

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please tell him or her you want to contribute to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 and/or the Rare and Endangered Species Protection Program on line 403. If you use Turbo Tax, when you’re near the end of your tax return it should ask if you want to make a voluntary contribution to a special fund. Click “Yes” and go to lines 403 and 410.

These funds consist entirely of voluntary contributions from California taxpayers. There are no other dedicated state funding sources available for this important work. Please visit the website at www.dfg.ca.gov/taxcheck and Facebook page at www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW for more information.

Volunteers Needed for Bighorn Sheep Survey

Three agencies working to survey bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel Mountains are seeking volunteers to assist in the annual sheep count.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and the Society for Conservation of Bighorn Sheep are seeking individuals to assist biologists March 1-2, 2014 (Saturday evening and all day Sunday).

No survey experience is necessary to participate but volunteers must attend a mandatory orientation on Saturday, March 1 at 6 p.m. at the Angeles National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Arcadia.

Volunteers will hike to designated observation sites in the San Gabriel Mountains early Sunday morning to count and record bighorn sheep. Volunteer groups will be led by a representative from either CDFW, USFS or the Society. Participants must be at least 16 years old and capable of hiking one mile in rugged terrain, although some survey routes are longer. In general, hikes will not be along trails and accessing survey points will involve scrambling over boulders, climbing up steep slopes and/or bush-whacking through chaparral.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring binoculars or spotting scopes in addition to hiking gear. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and participants should be prepared to spend several hours hiking and additional time making observations in cold and windy weather. Volunteers will need to start hiking early Sunday morning.

For volunteers who wish to camp, complimentary campsites will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the Applewhite Campground in Lytle Creek on the night of March 1, 2014.

Surveys for bighorn sheep in the San Gabriel range have been conducted annually since 1979. The mountain range once held an estimated 740 sheep, which made the San Gabriel population the largest population of desert bighorn sheep in California. The bighorn population declined more than 80 percent through the 1980s but appears to be on the increase with recent estimates yielding approximately 400 animals.

Please sign up online at http://www.sangabrielbighorn.org/San_Gabriel_Bighorn_Sheep_Home.html . If you do not have access to the internet, you may call either (909) 627-1613 or (909) 584-9012 to receive a volunteer packet.

Media Contacts:
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944
John Miller, USFS Communications, (909) 382-2788
Norm Lopez, Society for Conservation (805) 431-2824

A bighorn sheep ram on a hill overlooking desert
Bighorn sheep

CDFW Creates First Bighorn Sheep Herd in 25 Years

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), along with volunteers from around the state, has established a new herd of federally endangered Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep.

“This is the first reintroduction effort of a new herd of Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep since 1988,” said Tom Stephenson, CDFW bighorn recovery program leader.

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Historically, Sierra bighorn were abundant throughout the Sierra Nevada; however, by the 1970s, only two herds remained. Disease spread by domestic sheep and unregulated commercial hunting are believed to have caused their demise.

“Many endangered species remain on the brink of extinction with poor prospects for recovery after they receive federal protection,” said Stephenson. “Through our conservation efforts, we have a unique opportunity to reach recovery goals for an alpine specialist that is native only to California.”

During the week of March 25, 2013 10 female and four male bighorn sheep were captured from two of the largest existing herds in the Sierra Nevada and reintroduced to the vacant herd unit of Olancha Peak at the southern end of the range in Inyo County.  Six additional females were moved to two small northern herds, Convict Creek and Mount Gibbs, for augmentation of those herds.

Following this recent effort, there are now 10 herds of Sierra bighorn between Owens Lake and Mono Lake. Three additional herds are needed to meet recovery goals. The population currently numbers around 500 animals and is up considerably from a low of just over 100 animals.

A video news story is available at http://youtu.be/5KOMCxxTL6U

Note: High-resolution photos and video are available for use at ftp://ftp.dfg.ca.gov/oceo

Media Contacts:
Tom Stephenson, CDFW Wildlife Supervisor, (760) 873-4305
Andrew Hughan, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8944

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