Tag Archives: wetlands

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.

####

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

CDFW Seeks Public Comment on Wetland Restoration Grant Program

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is seeking comments on a new solicitation of grant proposals for wetland restoration grants.

Dry grasses surround blue water in a seasonal wetland
Flooded section of Yolo Basin Wildlife Area, north of the Delta. Dana Michaels/CDFW photo

CDFW recently initiated its Wetlands Restoration Greenhouse Gas Reduction Grant Program, and is seeking public input on the development of a solicitation for projects to reduce greenhouse gases (GHG) and achieve co-benefits for fish and wildlife habitat. CDFW is seeking input on the geographic scope of projects, solicitation priorities, types of projects, methods of monitoring and quantifying GHG reduction, and proposal evaluation criteria for this solicitation. The project area is currently defined as the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, coastal wetlands and mountain meadows.

Proposals submitted under this solicitation will undergo an evaluation and ranking process to identify high quality projects to achieve the priorities and objectives of this solicitation.

Written public comments on this solicitation must be submitted by noon on Sept.18 and sent to:

California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Attention: Helen Birss
Re: Wetland Restoration Grant Program
1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1260
Sacramento, CA 95814

Comments can also be sent via e-mail to Helen.birss@wildlife.ca.gov (please use “Solicitation comment” in the subject line.)

For more information on the solicitation process, please visit https://nrm.dfg.ca.gov/FileHandler.ashx?DocumentID=88780&inline.

Media Contacts:
Helen Birss, CDFW Habitat Conservation Branch, (916) 653-9834
Dana Michaels, CDFW Communications, (916) 322-2420

New Interpretive Center Proposed at Ballona Wetlands

The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the Annenberg Foundation are working to bring an interpretive center to the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve. Today, along with the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC) and the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Commission (SMBRC), CDFW and the Foundation entered into a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to begin planning the center in hopes construction will begin in 2014.

“We hope this center will become a place where community members can come to learn how nature works, and how each of them is a part of it,” said CDFW Director Charlton H. Bonham. “This effort is the kind of legacy project we need, with education programs to help instill a sense of stewardship in these urban communities that might otherwise not be fulfilled.”

Though details are still being worked out, and subject to variation pending the outcome of environmental review, concepts for the possible 46,000 square foot building include an auditorium, classrooms, a public lobby, exhibits on wildlife and domestic animals, facilities for an animal adoption and care program, veterinary facilities for animals on site, retail space, parking and office space for staff.

Educational goals for the facility are outlined in the MOU and are based on responsible natural resource stewardship. The proposed interpretive center would educate visitors on:

  • The ecological importance of the wetlands, its native habitat and how the community can interact with it in a responsible, respectful way;
  • Responsible treatment of animals;
  • Human-wildlife interactions and how to minimize conflicts, including pet owner responsibilities at the urban-wildland interface;
  • The cultural history of the area including the ways that the Native Americans incorporated wildlife and animals into their lives; and
  • Other educational messages about the importance of wetlands and conserving and protecting wildlife and their habitats.

A key goal of the Foundation will be to provide support for existing programs at Ballona Wetlands, such as educational tours and volunteer opportunities. But the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands remains a CDFW, SCC and SMBRC project. The draft state and federal (California Environmental Quality Act and National Environmental Policy Act) environmental documents will be out for public review around spring or early summer 2013.

The concept under consideration would create public access to a neglected portion of the wetlands not currently accessible to the general public. Local community meetings have commenced and will continue providing feedback that will help shape the proposal.

The emerging partnership with CDFW, SCC and SMBRC is a model of a productive public/private partnership that leverages the strengths and resources of each other. The Annenberg Foundation is committed to creating compelling community-serving space in Los Angeles as demonstrated through the Annenberg Community Beach House and the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Annenberg Foundation is a family foundation that provides funding and support to nonprofit organizations in the United States and globally. The Foundation and its Board of Directors are also directly involved in the community with innovative projects that further its mission to advance the public well-being through improved communication. The Foundation encourages the development of effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

Media Contacts:
Jordan Traverso, CDFW Communications, (916) 654-9937, jordan.traverso@wildlife.ca.gov
Liza deVilla Ameen, Annenberg Foundation (310) 209-4571, lameen@annenbergfoundation.org

Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project Under Way With Public Input

Public Invited to Submit Comments on the Scope of Environmental Documents

The California Department of Fish & Game (DFG) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) have begun the process of developing environmental reviews for the restoration of the Ballona Wetlands in west Los Angeles County. The documents will review potential designs for the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve and evaluate their likely impacts on wildlife, water pollution, local traffic and other factors.  The public is encouraged to submit suggestions for the environmental review at a scoping meeting planned for August 16, 2012.

The Ballona Wetlands was at one time a large wetland complex that covered more than 2,000 acres along the coast near Los Angeles, from Playa del Rey to Venice. Today, the Ballona Wetlands Ecological Reserve encompasses 600 acres owned by the State of California and offers one of the largest opportunities for repairing lost coastal wetlands in Los Angeles County. The site contains important habitat and is identified as a high priority for restoration in the Santa Monica Bay Restoration Plan and the regional strategy of the Southern California Wetland Recovery Project.

The area is currently off-limits to the public. After restoration, the site will be open to residents and visitors for walking, biking, birdwatching and learning about nature. The project may involve removing the concrete levees on Ballona Creek to restore river and marsh habitat between Marina del Rey and the Westchester Bluffs, west of Lincoln Boulevard.  Due to construction costs logistics and wildlife management needs, the project would take several years to build even after it is approved.

DFG and the Corps will hold a scoping meeting on Thursday, August 16, from 4:00-7:00 p.m. at the Fiji Gateway entrance to the Ballona Wetlands (13720 Fiji Way, Marina del Rey, CA 90292. The site is across from Fisherman’s Village and the Los Angeles County Department of Beaches and Harbors).

Members of the public are invited to attend, speak to agency representatives and provide input for the environmental review. The agencies expect to examine the impacts to aesthetics, air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, water quality, land use and planning, noise, public services, recreation, sea-level rise, traffic and others.

Written comments on the scope of environmental review, or additional issues may be submitted at the scoping meeting or sent to the address listed below. Comments will be accepted until September 10, 2012

Ballona Wetlands Restoration Project
C/O Donna McCormick
1 Ada, Suite 100
Irvine, CA  92816 or by email to Donna.McCormick@icfi.com

Additional information on the project and the environmental review process is available on the Ballona Wetlands Restoration website at: www.ballonarestoration.org.

Media Contacts:
David Lawhead, DFG Region 5, (858) 627-3997
Donna McCormick, ICF International, (949) 333-6611
Dr. Daniel P. Swenson, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, (213) 452-3414

Wildlife Conservation Board Funds Environmental Improvement and Acquisition Projects

Media Contacts:
John Donnelly, Wildlife Conservation Board, (916) 445-0137
Dana Michaels, DFG Communications, (916) 322-2420

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

At its May 31 quarterly meeting, the Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) approved $29.4  million to help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The 30 funded projects will provide benefits to fish and wildlife species, including some endangered species, and others will provide public access opportunities 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, the landowner and the local community. The funds for all of these projects come from recent bond initiatives approved by the voters to help preserve and protect California’s natural resources.

Some of the funded projects include:

  • A $1.4 million grant to the Regents of the University of California to construct a new classroom/lecture hall, install underground utilities, improve existing roadway and parking areas, and replace water control structures at the Sierra Nevada Aquatic Research Laboratory, approximately eight miles east of Mammoth Lakes in Mono County.
  • A $234,000 grant to the East Bay Regional Park District to replace an existing vault toilet with an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessible restroom, construct an ADA parking space, improve an ADA path and conduct a structural engineering inspection of the Point Pinole Fishing Pier at Point Pinole Regional Shoreline Park in Contra Costa County.
  • A $552,076 grant to the Monterey County Parks Department to acquire approximately 113 acres to protect native grasslands, oak woodlands, riparian woodlands and seasonal wetlands that serve as an important wildlife corridor. The land is located west of Salinas, adjacent to the Toro County Park, along Highway 68, in Monterey County.
  • Acceptance of a $10,000 grant from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services Habitat Conservation Planning grant that will be passed on to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission to acquire approximately 1,342 acres of land for the protection of Peninsular bighorn sheep habitat, and to provide future wildlife oriented public use opportunities.
  • A $2 million grant to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to acquire a working forest conservation easement over approximately 4,024 acres located two miles southeast of the community of Bridgeville in Humboldt County, where the State proposes to administer federal Forest Legacy Program  funds to protect forest land, important scenic, fish, wildlife, riparian and other ecological values under the California Forest Legacy Program.
  • A $1.5 million grant to the California Waterfowl Association (CWA) to acquire fee title of approximately 763 acres of land south of Suisun City, north of Grizzly Bay in Solano County, for the protection of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands and associated upland areas that support migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and threatened and endangered species, including the fully-listed salt-marsh harvest mouse.
  • A $2 million grant to CWA to acquire fee title of approximately 982 acres of land in Solano County, south of Suisun City and north of Grizzly Bay for the protection of San Francisco Bay Area wetlands and associated upland areas that support migratory waterfowl and shorebirds and threatened and endangered species, including the fully-listed salt-marsh harvest mouse.
  • A $2.8 million grant to the Solano Land Trust for a cooperative project with the California Coastal Conservancy, Moore Foundation, City of Fairfield, Resources Legacy Fund and the Syar Foundation to acquire approximately 1,165 acres of land in the hills north of Cordelia Junction, in Solano County to protect significant natural landscapes and wildlife corridors. This land runs north to the Blueridge open space areas near Lake Berryessa and includes oak woodland, grassland, wetland and riparian habitats, and will provide access and passive recreational opportunities to the public.
  • An $8 million grant to Ducks Unlimited, Inc., for a cooperative project with the State Coastal Conservancy and the Department of Fish and Game to restore approximately 230 acres of coastal wetlands and to construct public access improvements at ponds E12 and E13 at DFG’s Eden Landing Ecological Reserve, approximately 5.5 miles west of Union City in Alameda County.
  • A $400,000 grant to the State Coastal Conservancy for a cooperative project with the Earth Island Institute to assist with the implementation of the Community Wetland Restoration Grant Program that provides funding for community-based restoration projects in coastal wetlands and watersheds in Southern California. Projects are located in the five coastal counties from Point Conception to the U.S.-Mexico border, including portions of Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange, and San Diego Counties.

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

DFG Completes First Safe Harbor Agreement

Media Contact:
Janice Mackey, DFG Communications, (916) 322-8908

Private Landowners Play Pivotal Role in Long Term Conservation

The Department Fish and Game (DFG) has issued its first safe harbor agreement with the Agriculture and Land Based Training Association (ALBA).

This agreement covers the management actions on ALBA’s Triple M Ranch in northern Monterey County, where wetland restoration activities will improve water quality and breeding habitat for the state’s threatened California tiger salamander.

“We are truly excited to be issuing the state’s first safe harbor agreement and look forward to working with other land owners to promote conservation throughout California,” said Charlton H. Bonham, Director of DFG. “The support of private citizens, tribes, municipalities and others will help us reverse the decline of species large and small for future generations to enjoy.”

Promoting conservation of state-listed species and habitats on private lands, a safe harbor agreement (SHA) assures landowners who voluntarily take conservation actions that no future regulatory restrictions will be imposed as a result of their efforts.

“The California Safe Harbor Program is aligned with our project goal to demonstrate the compatibility between natural areas and organic production,” said Ed Moncrief, ALBA Board Chair. “As an organization that provides farmers the education, space, and support to develop economically and ecologically sustainable farming businesses, we are proud to also be the first landowner issued a safe harbor agreement by DFG.”

Overall, the goal of the program is to increase the populations of state-listed species through the creation of new habitats or enhancing existing ones. Although the increase can be temporary or long term, a SHA must result in a “net conservation benefit” to the covered species. It cannot result in a reduction of existing populations of species present at the time the baseline is established. An approved monitoring program must be established for the duration of the agreement to evaluate its effectiveness.

The California Safe Harbor Program is comparable to the federal Safe Harbor Program, which allows for the development of joint state/federal SHAs to cover both state and federally listed species occurring on the same property.