Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , ,

Press Release: Governor Newsom launches California’s ‘Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future’

Office of Governor Gavin Newsom

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: To restore populations of salmon amidst hotter and drier weather exacerbated by climate change, Governor Newsom announced California’s first strategy to protect the iconic fish species for generations to come.

Governor Gavin Newsom today announced new actions and efforts already underway that California is taking to help restore California’s salmon populations.

Salmon Strategy for a Hotter, Drier Future

After 10 years of rapidly intensifying drought and more extreme weather, salmon are not doing well. Last year, with projections showing Chinook salmon population at historic lows, the salmon season was closed and the Newsom Administration requested a Federal Fishery Disaster to support impacted communities. Additionally, due to crashing salmon populations in 2023, some tribes canceled their religious and cultural harvests for the first time ever.

The strategy’s six priorities call for:

    1. Removing barriers and modernizing infrastructure for salmon migration
    2. Restoring habitat
    3. Protecting water flows in key rivers at the right times
    4. Modernizing hatcheries
    5. Transforming technology and management systems
    6. Strengthening partnerships

Read more at https://www.gov.ca.gov/2024/01/30/governor-newsom-launches-californias-salmon-strategy-for-a-hotter-drier-future/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Transportation, WildlifeTags , , , , , , , ,

Hwy. 37 could be under water by 2050. Here’s how Caltrans plans to keep traffic flowing

Colin Atagi, NORTH BAY BUSINESS JOURNAL

The favored plan also proposes the route have a 60 mph speed limit, as well as two lanes in each direction with bicycle and pedestrian paths. The plan is in its early stages and officials haven’t identified a cost or funding source.

Caltrans, in order to keep traffic flowing decades from now, intends to build an elevated road along Highway 37 to combat rising water levels, which are expected to eventually inundate the North Bay arterial.

The proposed project essentially stretches across the existing route along San Pablo Bay and through Marin, Sonoma, Napa and Solano counties.

It preserves travel patterns, allows landward marsh migration and is resilient to sea level rises, officials said in explaining its benefits.

Read more at https://www.northbaybusinessjournal.com/article/news/hwy-37-could-be-under-water-by-2050-heres-how-caltrans-plans-to-keep-tra/

Posted on Categories Land Use, TransportationTags , , , , , , , ,

Wetlands advocates work to raise Highway 37

Dan Ashley & Tom Didion, ABC7 NEWS

There’s a vocal debate over building a better Bay Area, by building a better highway. At stake is not just traffic, but potentially vast stretches of restored wetlands.

When Kendall Webster gazes across the levees and farmland in southern Sonoma County, she can envision the tidal marshes that once flushed water back and forth from meandering waterways to San Pablo Bay.

“And so this whole flatland here was a mosaic of tidal wetlands,” she explains.

It’s a vast expanse of wetlands that the Sonoma Land Trust and their partners are working to restore.

“And you know, California is investing in climate, the way no other state in the country is right now. So we think that this is the natural infrastructure project that the state should be highlighting,” Webster maintains.

To make that vision a reality, the Trust has joined with Save the Bay and more than a dozen environmental and land management groups, urging Cal/Trans and the state to remove the one barrier that could open up natural marshland across the entire North Bay.

Read more at https://abc7news.com/highway-37-restoring-sonoma-county-wetlands-san-pablo-bay-land-trust-restoration/12117895/

Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , ,

The hatchery crutch: How we got here

Jude Isabella, HAKAI MAGAZINE

From their beginnings in the late 19th century, salmon hatcheries have gone from cure to band-aid to crutch. Now, we can’t live without manufactured fish.

To restore salmon populations requires a thoughtful, long-term vision. Habitat restoration is key, and in some instances a conservation hatchery that keeps distinct salmon populations alive during the long process of undoing extensive damage to watersheds.

Writer and fly fisher Roderick Haig-Brown dreamed of a time when the North Pacific Ocean would grow a lot more salmon.

Haig-Brown was probably the most famous and influential fly fisher in North America during his lifetime. The author wrote from his home on the banks of Campbell River on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. He sat at a desk with a view of the river, far from where the arbiters of great writing resided at the time. The New Yorker regularly reviewed his books (always favorably) and in 1976, the New York Times reported on his death.

From the 1930s to the 1970s, Haig-Brown led readers into the realm of Pacific salmon: chinook, sockeye, coho, chum, and pink. In his 1941 book, Return to the River, a lyrical story about one fish that moved a critic to call the author an immortal in the field of nature writing, Haig-Brown dug into the soul of a fish. He created a world from a wild chinook salmon’s point of view, allowing the reader to tag along on the cyclical path of a fish named Spring, from birth to death in an Oregon stream. Her life story is both wondrous and harrowing. Spring’s journey reflected all that Haig-Brown fretted about over 80 years ago: logging that decimated streams, dams that blocked rivers, and development that buried creeks. He fretted about hatchery fish, too.

Read more at https://hakaimagazine.com/features/the-hatchery-crutch-how-we-got-here/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

‘Damtastic!’ Newsom calls for Beaver Restoration Program

Jason Walsh, PRESS DEMOCRAT

Sonoma wildlife conservationists had one word to describe Gov. Gavin Newsom’s proposed new Beaver Restoration program: “Damtastic!”

Newsom floated the program as part of a May 13 presentation of his revised 2022-2023 fiscal budget. Pledging $1.67 million this year and $1.44 million in years thereafter, Newsom said the funds would go toward the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s efforts in developing “a comprehensive beaver management plan.”

The North American Beaver is considered a “keystone species” by Fish and Wildlife, which estimates its current population in the state to be between 10 million to 15 million. “Historically, beavers used to live in nearly every stream in North America with an estimated population of 100-200 million,” DFW officials state at wildlife.ca.gov.

In the budget proposal, Newsom described beaver as “an untapped, creative climate solving hero” that helps prevent the loss of biodiversity.

“Beavers are remarkable at creating more resilient ecosystems,” said Newsom. “And therefore thinking through approaches to maximize their unique skills throughout California will benefit our landscapes and help drive more cost-efficient restoration.”

Sonoma County beaver advocates have been “working hard in Sacramento” the past year to lobby for investment into just such a program, said Brock Dolman, of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, in an email. Dolman said the next step is to continue to advocate for its inclusion in the final budget, which goes into effect July 1.

Read more at https://www.pressdemocrat.com/article/news/damtastic-newsom-calls-for-beaver-restoration-program/

Posted on Categories Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

‘Haven’t been seen for 25 years’: rains bring salmon back to California streams

Reuters, THE GUARDIAN

Endangered coho salmon spotted returning to spawning grounds after well-timed precipitation

The heavy rains that soaked California late last year were welcomed by farmers, urban planners – and endangered coho salmon.

“We’ve seen fish in places that they haven’t been for almost 25 years,” said Preston Brown, the director of watershed conservation for the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network (Spawn).

California received more precipitation from October to December than in the previous 12 months, according to the National Weather Service.

The abundance of rain and snow arrived in time for the November-to-January spawning season in the resource-rich Tomales Bay watershed north of San Francisco, enabling some fish to reach tributaries to the Lagunitas Creek, at least 13 miles inland in Marin County.

Some fish have been spotted a mile upstream from where the San Geronimo Creek had been dammed until little more than a year ago, experts say.

Read more at https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jan/19/coho-salmon-california-spawning-rain-drought

Posted on Categories Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , ,

Something to celebrate: Beavers return to Sonoma Creek

SONOMA ECOLOGY CENTER

It’s been a long summer of extreme drought conditions in Sonoma Valley. In what seems like a steady stream of dire news for our watershed one glimmer of good news stands out: beavers are moving back into Sonoma Creek.

The return of these charming dam builders isn’t quite breaking news – since 1993 beavers have slowly made a comeback in Sonoma Valley. But this year, in the middle of our peak dry season, their increasing presence is something for celebration. From the perspective of drought resiliency and water retention in our watershed we’re observing how beavers are a positive factor in keeping what water we do have flowing in our creek beds and reducing hydrological impacts of water rushing through the main stem of Sonoma Creek.

Their natural impulse to build dams and create ponds is a major factor in retaining refuge habitat for species that rely on water to survive. Beavers provide refuge habitat for endangered salmonids, crawdads, California roach, Sacramento suckers, frogs and the endangered California freshwater shrimp which rely on deep pools and submerged, structural habitat like fine tree roots which are often present in the structure of a beaver dam. Any animal, insect, or crustacean that requires water to live in our creek is something that benefits from the damming that the beavers do.

Read more at https://sonomaecologycenter.org/beavers-return/

Posted on Categories Climate Change & Energy, Habitats, Water, WildlifeTags , , , , , ,

A struggling California marsh gets an overhaul to prepare for rising seas

Alastair Bland, AUDUBON MAGAZINE

The restoration of the Sonoma Creek in the San Francisco Bay Area not only corrects problems of the past, but also looks to the future.

The sun shines meekly through a veil of morning fog and wildfire smoke while several figures in orange vests, hard hats, and face masks move slowly through a marsh on the north shore of San Francisco Bay. Wielding brooms, they jab lightly at the vegetation, ruffling the tufts of native pickleweed. As biological monitors, their job is to flush out small animals—especially the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse—and usher them from the path of a rumbling excavator, which is about to dig a deep groove in the slick mud.

It’s early October at the mouth of Sonoma Creek, where an unusual conservation project that broke ground five years ago is nearing the finish line. Audubon California and partner agencies are turning what was once a 400-acre stagnant backwater into a thriving wetland ecosystem that will serve as a refuge from rising seas for decades to come.

This revitalization of Sonoma Creek marsh is more a story of creation than one of restoration. The place is a product of the Gold Rush era, when torrents of unearthed sediment choked the Sacramento River system and later settled downstream. While hawks, grebes, and plovers made use of the area, which is managed today as part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, the marsh wasn’t exactly a haven. The unnatural mud buildup was too rapid, preventing the formation of the channel systems that typically run through wetlands like arteries and allow a healthy water exchange with adjacent bays and estuaries. “If this was a natural marsh, it would look like a lung—it would breathe,” says Andrea Jones, director of bird conservation at Audubon California.
Continue reading “A struggling California marsh gets an overhaul to prepare for rising seas”

Posted on Categories Land Use, WaterTags , , ,

Gualala River estuary conservation effort takes a $2.1 million step toward success

THE MENDOCINO BEACON

Sometimes it does take a small group of passionate locals to conserve a river estuary forever.

In 2017, 113 acres of scenic and environmentally sensitive coastal wetlands and adjacent uplands surrounding the Gualala River went up for sale for the first time in over 70 years. The community came together, signaled their desire for open space with sensitive public access versus development. The movement began.

Thursday, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy announced that it has received three grants totaling over $2.1 million for the Gualala River Mill Bend Conservation Project that they are stewarding for the community. The US Fish & Wildlife Service awarded the project $1 million through the National Coastal Wetlands Conservation Program. An $845,000 award came from the California Natural Resources Agency through the Environmental Enhancement & Mitigation Program. The third grant award of $300,000 came from the California State Coastal Conservancy and will allow for initial site assessment and a conservation master plan.

“(Redwood Coast Land Conservancy) feels fortunate to share conservation goals with our federal and state partners. The Mill Bend project will clean up a degraded area from a century of timber mill use and enable wildlife habitat restoration, estuary enhancement for steelhead and salmon and thoughtful public access including continuing the California Coastal Trail,” said Kathleen Chasey, project manager for the conservancy.

Founded in 1992, the Redwood Coast Land Conservancy is the local land trust for the Mendo-noma coast. The conservancy has taken the lead role to secure the funds for the Mill Bend acquisition, planning and stewardship and is conducting a $2.7 million “Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend.”

“We plan to raise enough funds through additional smaller foundation grants and community contributions to preserve and protect this vital property in perpetuity, said President Christina Batt.

In addition to the three grants awarded, Redwood Coast Land Conservancy must raise $600,000 for stewardship since funders for the acquisition require substantial stewardship funds be in place to demonstrate adequate resources to manage and protect the property forever. The group has been quietly contacting key donors and has lined up $300,000 in lead gifts. The official launch of the campaign to raise $600,000 was to begin in March but was postponed to now because of the COVID-19 virus outbreak. Contributions toward the Mill Bend campaign are welcomed.

More information about RCLC and the Campaign to Preserve Mill Bend can be found on the RCLC website at www.rclc.org. Contributions to RCLC can be made via its website or by sending a check to P.O.Box 1511, Gualala, CA 95445

Source: https://www.mendocinobeacon.com/2020/05/22/gualala-river-estuary-conservation-effort-takes-a-2-1-million-step-toward-success/

Posted on Categories Habitats, WildlifeTags ,

Return of long-lost bees creating a lot of Presidio buzz

Peter Fimrite, SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE

The sudden appearance of buzzing insects around Brian Hildebidle’s feet as he surveyed a dune restoration project in the Presidio last week startled him and prompted alarming visions of volunteer workers fleeing from angry yellow jackets.

The stewardship coordinator for the Presidio Trust was about to run when he noticed the insects were a grayish color and swirling in a strange pattern close to the ground.

“I was really curious because I had never seen that flying pattern,” said Hildebidle, who leads volunteers on weekly weed-pulling and planting expeditions and is quite familiar with the park’s bug denizens.

The insects, which he said numbered in the hundreds, turned out to be silver digger bees, a rare sand-loving species that had not been seen in San Francisco in significant numbers for the better part of a century.

Read more at https://www.sfchronicle.com/science/article/Return-of-long-lost-bees-creating-a-lot-of-13725086.php