Mohave ground squirrel

CDFW Completes Conservation Strategy for Threatened Mohave Ground Squirrel

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) has completed its Conservation Strategy for the Mohave Ground Squirrel, a species listed as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act. The 129-page document, which is available on CDFW’s website, summarizes the available scientific information on the species and lays the foundation for its conservation and recovery in California.

The Mohave ground squirrel, Xerospermophilus mohavensis, is a small day-active rodent endemic to the western Mojave Desert of California. It has one of the smallest geographic ranges of any North American ground squirrel and spends much of the year in underground burrows to avoid the harsh conditions of its desert environment. It is threatened by climate change, habitat loss, degradation and fragmentation, and small population size, among other stressors.

CDFW has been engaged in conservation planning for the Mohave ground squirrel since it was listed as Rare in 1971; however, with recent emphasis on development of large-scale renewable energy facilities in California’s desert came recognition that such development could pose additional risks to the species. CDFW finalized the Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy to help guide renewable energy and other development projects to ensure they are consistent with the conservation needs of the squirrel.

The document consists of three main parts: a comprehensive list of conservation goals, objectives and measures; background information on the squirrel’s ecology and conservation status; and a summary of actions for the species by the various wildlife and land management agencies with jurisdiction in the species’ geographic range. The document can be considered CDFW’s policy for conservation of the Mohave ground squirrel and may be referenced in making decisions in the environmental review process, funding for habitat protection and restoration activities and prioritizing research and information needs.

The Mohave Ground Squirrel Conservation Strategy may also be used as the foundation for recovery planning for the species. Under newly enacted state law, CDFW may prepare recovery plans for listed species if funding is available.

According to Scott Osborn, CDFW wildlife ecologist and co-author of the document, such planning is an essential next step to help the species persist. “The Strategy provides good guidance, but real recovery of the Mohave ground squirrel requires implementation of specific actions for its conservation. Such actions need to be planned using a comprehensive and scientific process.”

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Media Contacts:
Scott Osborn, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 324-3564
Kirsten Macintyre, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-8988

Tax Time is the Right Time to Help California’s Endangered Wildlife

As you gather your W-2 and other income tax paperwork, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) hopes you will consider helping our state’s endangered plants, animals and fish when you file your state return.

The California Individual Income Tax Form 540 gives us all an opportunity to help our native wildlife—including plants and fish—by donating to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program and the California Sea Otter Fund in the Voluntary Contributions section of your state return. Any amount you contribute will support programs that benefit California species at risk of extinction. For most people, donations are tax-deductible the following year.

We live and work in one of the most biologically and geographically diverse states in North America—one reason California is such a nice place to live. But it is also the state with the largest human population, and many of our activities are detrimental to wildlife.

California has 220 plant species and 87 animal species listed as rare, threatened or endangered. Money raised through the tax contribution program helps pay for essential CDFW research and recovery efforts for these plants and animals, as well as critical efforts to restore and conserve their habitat. Habitat conservation and restoration for the most vulnerable species also protects many other plants and animals, helps recover ecosystem function and enhances the outdoor experience for all Californians.

The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program (RESP) on line 403 of yourtax return, has supported work benefiting California’s native at-risk fish, wildlife and plants since 1983. Donations to this fund by California taxpayers has enabled CDFW to obtain grant money from the federal government and collaborate with numerous stakeholders, agencies and other organizations to conserve native wildlife.

For example, with such partners we are currently:

  • investigating the impact that a deadly new fungus may have on native salamanders and ways to potentially manage infections,
  • reintroducing critically endangered mountain yellow-legged frogs to historically occupied areas,
  • assisting with development of a 10-year Recovery Action Plan for the San Francisco gartersnake and plans for future reintroductions,
  • investigating the impacts of insecticides on food resources, and breeding success of the threatened tricolored blackbird,
  • assisting with Mohave ground squirrel population monitoring at a long-term monitoring site near the Coso Range of Inyo county, and
  • coordinating development of a plan for the release of California condors into the Klamath region of northern California to help increase the breeding population and species distribution.

In 2018, the RESP voluntary donations helped provide endangered species protection for two species of plants, one bird and one mammal at risk of extinction: the tiny coast yellow leptosiphon (Leptosiphon croceus), known from only one population in San Mateo County; the beautiful Lassics lupine (Lupinus constancei), known from only two populations in the remote Lassics mountains of Humboldt and Trinity counties; the uniquely colonial tricolored blackbird (Agelaius tricolor), which is restricted almost entirely to California; and a small forest carnivore, the Humboldt marten (Martes caurina humboldtensis).

The RESP donations are also helping biologists evaluate whether two species of frogs warrant protection under the California Endangered Species Act.

Contributions to the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410 of your tax return are split between CDFW and the State Coastal Conservancy to benefit our Southern sea otter (Enhydra lutris nereis) population. The smallest marine mammal once lived in nearshore waters all along California’s coast and in estuaries such as Humboldt, San Francisco, Tomales and Morro bays. Reliable sources estimate there once were as many as 16,000 sea otters in California before fur traders hunted them to near-extinction in the 19th century. A few survived, were discovered in the 1930s, and quickly given legal protection. They are federally listed as threatened.

The Coastal Conservancy uses most of your donations for grants supporting research and conservation actions that facilitate recovery of California’s sea otter.  Research funded through this program has investigated factors limiting population growth and opportunities for range expansion to facilitate population recovery. Conservation actions funded have reduced threats to sea otters including:

  • reducing cyanobacteria blooms affecting otters, through management of water chemistry at Pinto Lake in Watsonville,
  • reducing vehicle strikes on otters, through installation of speed humps and signage on a coastal road in Moss Landing, and
  • reducing disturbance to sea otters by marine recreationists, through the Sea Otter Savvy

CDFW uses Sea Otter Fund donations for scientific research on the causes of death in California’s sea otters to help inform management actions like those listed above.

More than 16 million Californians file state tax returns each year. If each one donated just one dollar, we could solve many problems for our wildlife and ecosystems. It doesn’t take a large donation (although we dearly appreciate those!) to make a difference. The average voluntary contribution in 2018 was $15.

CDFW biologists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected vulnerable species, thanks to California taxpayers. More information about how CDFW uses donated funds is at www.wildlife.ca.gov/tax-donation and at www.facebook.com/seaotterfundcdfw.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 or the California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you use TurboTax, step-by-step instructions to help you find the California Contribution Funds are posted in the CDFW Document Library.

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Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, CDFW Native Plants Program, (916) 651-6594
Esther Burkett, CDFW Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420
Laird Henkel, CDFW Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726

Californians Help Endangered Species on State Tax Returns

Income tax returns are due April 16, so there’s still time to make a Voluntary Tax Contribution or two that benefit wildlife on your California Form 540. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) needs your help to save the more than 300 listed threatened and endangered plant and animal species that are native to our state.

The Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program continues to benefit California’s native at-risk fish, wildlife and plants, thanks to the generosity of California taxpayers. Donations to this fund have enabled CDFW to obtain matching funds from the federal government and collaborate with numerous stakeholders and organizations—including other government agencies—to conserve native wildlife and restore habitat. As federal funds decrease, public support becomes ever more crucial to keep recovery work on track.

Your voluntary contributions have enabled CDFW botanists to review the status of Lassics lupine and coast yellow leptosiphon, which are both candidate species for state listing. We recently leveraged your tax donation funds to obtain a second federal grant to conduct important monitoring of more threatened and endangered plant species.

Great gray owl, Mohave ground squirrel, mountain yellow-legged frog, willow flycatcher, desert pupfish, and giant garter snake are also among the species CDFW’s wildlife biologists are working with to ensure they survive well into the future, thanks to this endangered species fund.

In the marine environment, Southern sea otters (Enhydra lutris nereis) benefit from donations to the California Sea Otter Fund. There were once as many as 16,000 sea otters along California’s coast. The 2017 population survey counted fewer than 3,000 individuals—a slight decrease from the 2016 count.

Your donations to the Sea Otter Fund on line 410 support research on the causes of mortality in this species and other projects to help the sea otter population recover. The Southern sea otter is listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act, depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and fully protected by the State of California.

CDFW scientists have achieved important recovery milestones and protected many vulnerable species, with support from California taxpayers. There is no upper limit to donations and any amount is appreciated. Please give what you can, and remember, their future is in our hands, and your contributions can help save them.  More information about how CDFW uses these Voluntary Tax Contribution Funds is available at www.wildlife.ca.gov/Tax-Donation and at www.facebook.com/SeaOtterFundCDFW.

If someone else prepares your state tax return, please let him or her know you want to donate to the Rare and Endangered Species Preservation Program on line 403 and/or California Sea Otter Fund on line 410. If you have trouble finding California Contribution Funds in TurboTax, see these step-by-step instructions.

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Media Contacts:
Jeb Bjerke, Habitat Conservation Planning Branch (plants), (916) 651-6594
Esther Burkett, Nongame Wildlife Program, (916) 531-1594
Laird Henkel, Sea Otter Program, (831) 469-1726
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Stream Flow Enhancement Projects

At a March 22 meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved approximately $33.1 million in grants for 22 projects to enhance stream flows to benefit fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The Legislature appropriated funding for these projects as authorized by the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014 (Proposition 1). A total of $200 million was allocated to the WCB for projects that enhance stream flow.

A total of $38.4 million—including $5 million designated for scoping and scientific projects—was allocated to the WCB for expenditure in Fiscal Year 2017/18 for the California Stream Flow Enhancement Program. Projects were chosen through a competitive grant process, judged by the WCB, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the State Water Resources Control Board. Guided by the California Water Action Plan, funding is focused on projects that will lead to direct and measurable enhancements to the amount, timing and/or quality of water for anadromous fish; special status, threatened, endangered or at-risk species; or to provide resilience to climate change.

Funded projects include:

  • A $4.8 million grant to The Wildlands Conservancy for a project to enhance stream flow on Russ Creek by reestablishing channel alignment to provide continuous summer base flows suitable for fish passage. The project is located on the southern portion of the Eel River Estuary Preserve in Humboldt County, approximately four miles west of Ferndale.
  • A $693,408 grant to the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District for the purpose of dedicating a portion of the District’s diversion water rights to instream flow use that will benefit fish and wildlife by increasing habitat for salmonids and special status species in the Mad River. The project is located on the main-stem Mad River in the Mad River Watershed with releases coming from Matthews Dam at Ruth Reservoir, approximately 48 miles southeast of Eureka and 53 miles southwest of Redding.
  • A $726,374 grant to Mendocino County Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with Trout Unlimited, The Nature Conservancy and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to reduce summer diversions and improve dry season stream flows for the benefit of Coho salmon and steelhead trout. The Navarro River watershed is located approximately 20 miles south of Fort Bragg.
  • A $5 million grant to the Sutter Butte Flood Control Agency for a cooperative project with the Department of Water Resources and CDFW, to improve roughly 7,500 linear feet of existing channels to connect isolated ponds. This will provide fish refuge and eliminate potential stranding. This project’s design was funded by the Stream Flow Enhancement Program in 2016. The project site is within the Sacramento River watershed and is less than one mile southwest of the town of Oroville, on the east side of the Feather River.
  • $609,970 grant to the University of California Regents for a cooperative project with the University of Nevada, Reno and the Desert Research Institute, to expand monitoring, scientific studies and modeling in the Tahoe-Truckee Basin. The results will guide watershed-scale forest thinning strategies that enhance stream flow within an area that provides critical habitat for threatened species. The project is located in the central Sierra Nevada mountain range, primarily on National Forest lands in the Lake Tahoe Basin and Tahoe National Forest.
  • A $851,806 grant to the Sonoma Resource Conservation District for a cooperative project with the Coast Ridge Community Forest and 29 landowners, to install rainwater harvesting tanks and enter into agreements to refrain from diverting stream flow during dry seasons. The project area consists of 29 properties within the coastal Gualala River, Russian Gulch and Austin Creek watersheds, which discharge to the Pacific Ocean approximately 40 miles northwest of Santa Rosa.
  • A $5.3 million grant to the Alameda County Water District for a cooperative project with the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District, California Natural Resources Agency, State Coastal Conservancy and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to modify flow releases in Alameda Creek and construct two concrete fish ladders around existing fish passage barriers. This will provide salmonids access to high value habitat upstream of the project location, approximately 17 miles north of San Jose and 22 miles southeast of Oakland.
  • A $3.9 million grant to The Nature Conservancy for a cooperative project with U.C. Santa Barbara and the Santa Clara River Watershed Conservancy to remove approximately 250 acres of the invasive giant reed (Arundo donax), which will save approximately 2,000 acre-feet of water annually for the Santa Clara River. The project is located in unincorporated Ventura County approximately two miles east of the city of Santa Paula and three miles west of the city of Fillmore, along the Santa Clara River.

Details about the California Stream Flow Enhancement Program are available on the WCB website.

view down a slow-flowing river with green vegetation on both banks

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