Tag Archives: water conservation

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

Emergency Water Conservation Regulations for Timber Harvesters Enacted

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Conservation Will Protect Drinking Water and Help Provide Flows for Fish During Drought

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – In light of the unprecedented drought, the California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection adopted emergency regulations to conserve water for fish habitat and drinking water for Californians. The regulations became effective June 19.

The new Water Drafting Emergency Regulations require approved timber harvesting plans on private timber lands and plans pending approval to disclose all water drafting operations, drafting rates and volumes, compliance with Fish and Game Code Section 1600 and potential effects on downstream aquatic habitat. The emergency regulations will be in place for 180 days.

“The severity of the drought we are experiencing makes it imperative for all of us to conserve water wherever possible,” stated Dr. J. Keith Gilless, California Board of Forestry and Fire Protection chairman. “These emergency regulations will help land owners evaluate the cumulative effects of forest management on all resource systems and values.”

Additionally, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CAL FIRE) are drafting a joint letter to private timberland owners and foresters. The letter summarizes the new regulations and provides a reminder that approved timber harvesting plans require compliance with Fish and Game Code Section 1600. The letter will also state that timber harvesting plans must provide background on potential drought impacts to fisheries, wildlife and domestic water supplies. Licensed timber operators will be required to ensure that water is not removed in quantities harmful to domestic water supplies, fish, wildlife or other current beneficial uses of the water.

State agencies responsible for regulatory compliance of timber operations will continue to pay close attention to water diversion activities on all active timber harvesting plans and will work to ensure that water conservation is implemented to the extent feasible.

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to reduce their water use by 20 percent and prevent water waste – visit saveourH2O.org 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.

Media Contacts:
Clark Blanchard, CDFW Communications, (916) 651-7824
Janet Upton, CAL FIRE Communications, (916) 704-4287

State Streamlines Domestic Water Tank Storage Process In Response to Drought

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937
George Kostyrko, State Water Board Communications, (916) 341-7365

As the unprecedented drought continues in California, a number of the state’s coastal rivers and streams are in danger of reaching critically low stages later this summer, threatening rural drinking water supplies. But plans are now in place to assist landowners that store water for use later in the season through a state program.

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) announced today that they will expedite approval for the installation of storage tanks by landowners who currently divert water from these important rivers and streams. The action comes under the State Water Board’s Small Domestic Use (SDU) registration program.

Installing tanks to divert and store water when flows are higher will help improve rural water supply reliability and fire safety while also relieving pressure for in-stream diversions during the drier months when fish need it most.

The State Water Board has an existing statewide registration program for domestic use of water, allowing home water uses such as drinking and fire protection. These small domestic registrations must comply with general conditions from the State Water Board and typically receive project specific conditions from CDFW.

Landowners eligible for the SDU program currently can request approval to divert to storage. However, this can be a lengthy process requiring site-specific evaluations that address in-stream and habitat needs.

With today’s action, CDFW has essentially “pre-approved” the installation of storage tanks that meet the general criteria. The State Water Board has agreed to incorporate these criteria as conditions of approval, and to expedite the issuance of the registrations. This action will result in the collection of water during any upcoming precipitation events, taking advantage of higher flows, and using the stored water later in the season when there may be little to no water available.

Some of these water tanks can provide months of storage to meet domestic water supply needs.

“We have been working in these coastal communities for many years, and have good reason to believe that these emergency changes are going to be welcomed,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of CDFW. “Many landowners who have wanted to take these steps can do so now more quickly with greater regulatory certainty from our department.”

This action is designed to capture water when it is raining and right after rain events. It is not designed to expand any applicant’s existing water right or amount of diversion. Capturing rain when it falls from the sky and storing it for use later can also help reduce the impacts to fish and wildlife from diverting water from streams during the driest times of the summer. Today’s action was the direct result of suggestions made by local communities and fish conservation organizations such as Trout Unlimited, Mattole River Sanctuary Forest and the Salmonid Restoration Federation.

“The drought is going to be really hard for fish and wildlife as well as agriculture and people,” said State Water Board Executive Officer Tom Howard. “CDFW and the State Water Board are open to any solution from any corner of the state on how to make it through these tough times together.”

Expedited permitting is available to applicants that meet all of the criteria set forth in the program. SDU program eligibility can be found at http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/.

Eligible parties are those that are already diverting from a stream under a riparian basis of right in CDFW Regions 1 or 3. The party should be diverting for domestic and fire protection use only, and has or will install a rigid style water storage tank. The storage tank should be big enough in size to store at least 60 days of water supply for the house.

Parties who are eligible will need to accept the general CDFW conditions, most importantly that they will use the stored water as a substitute for withdrawing additional water during the summer when flows are lowest. The State Water Board will expedite processing of registration forms where the party meets the CDFW eligibility criteria.

This will help protect fish during periods of low stream flow, especially this year with the drought conditions.

With California facing one of the most severe droughts on record, Governor Brown declared a drought State of Emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for water shortages. The Governor signed legislation to immediately help communities deal with the devastating dry conditions affecting our state and to provide funding to increase local water supplies after it was passed with bipartisan support in the legislature.

Governor Brown met with President Obama about crucial federal support during the ongoing drought, and the state continues to work with federal partners to ensure coordinated drought monitoring and response. Governor Brown and the administration have also expressed support for federal legislation introduced by Senators Feinstein and Boxer and Representatives Jim Costa, Tony Cárdenas and Sam Farr.

Across state government, action is being taken. The Department of General Services is leading water conservation efforts at state facilities, and the California State Architect has asked California school districts and Community Colleges to act on the Governor’s call to reduce water usage. The Department of Transportation is cutting water usage along California’s roadways by 50 percent. Caltrans has also launched a public awareness campaign, putting a water conservation message on their more than 700 electronic highway signs.

In January, the state took action to conserve water in numerous Northern California reservoirs to meet minimum needs for operations impacting the environment and the economy, and recently the Department of Water Resources and U.S. Bureau of Reclamation announced they would seek the authority to make water exchanges to deliver water to those who need it most. The State Water Resources Control Board announced it would work with hydropower generators and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to preserve water in California reservoirs, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Fish and Game Commission restricted fishing on some waterways due to low water flows worsened by the drought.

The state is working to protect local communities from the dangers of extreme drought. The California Department of Public Health identified and offered assistance to communities at risk of severe drinking water shortages and is working with other state and local agencies to develop solutions for vulnerable communities. CAL FIRE hired additional firefighters and is continuously adjusting staffing throughout the state to help address the increased fire threat due to drought conditions. The California Department of Food and Agriculture launched a drought website to help farmers, ranchers and farmworkers find resources and assistance programs that may be available to them during the drought.

Even as the state deals with the immediate impacts of the drought, it’s also planning for the future. In 2013, the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency and CDFA released the California Water Action Plan, which will guide state efforts to enhance water supply reliability, restore damaged and destroyed ecosystems and improve the resilience of our infrastructure.

Governor Brown has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent, and the Save Our Water campaign launched four public service announcements encouraging residents to conserve and has resources available in Spanish. Last December, the Governor formed a Drought Task Force to review expected water allocations and California’s preparedness for water scarcity. In May 2013, Governor Brown issued an Executive Order to direct state water officials to expedite the review and processing of voluntary transfers of water.

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