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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

KERN NWR: Service Protects 1,042 Acres of New Habitat with Newest Additions to Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area

Region 8, May 20, 2010
These wetland and adjacent upland habitats on Rancho Visalia property were protected within the new Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area. USFWS Photo by Scott Frazer
These wetland and adjacent upland habitats on Rancho Visalia property were protected within the new Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area. USFWS Photo by Scott Frazer - Photo Credit: n/a
Endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard protected on Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area property. USFWS Photo by Scott Frazer
Endangered blunt-nosed leopard lizard protected on Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area property. USFWS Photo by Scott Frazer - Photo Credit: n/a

SACRAMENTO -- Conserving wetland habitats for migrating birds, waterfowl and other wildlife in California took a step forward recently with the first-year acquisition of 1,042 acres in Kern County for the Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area (WMA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today.

In May, parcels gained through perpetual conservation easements valued at $1.5 million brought three tracts of wetland habitats into the new WMA, which will be managed as part of the Kern National Wildlife Refuge in the southern San Joaquin Valley.  The acquisitions include the 150-acre Santura Duck Club tract, 264 –acre Pintail Slough Land Company, and 627-acre Rancho Visalia tract. 

The Service approved the creation of Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area in October of 2007.  Plans call for eventual protection of 22,000 acres in Kern and Tulare Counties in an area between Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges, which are located between Interstate-5 and Highway 99, northwest of Bakersfield.  

The plan anticipates that ninety percent of the land in the WMA will be conserved through the purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners.  Conservation easements provide for land to be managed for wildlife habitat purposes while allowing landowners to retain ownership.  The Service obtained concurrence form the California Fish and Game Commission, and the board of supervisors from both Kern and Tulare Counties prior to implementing the Tulare Basin WMA project.

Funding for the purchase of the conservation easements comes from proceeds generated by the sale of federal duck stamps, and was approved last fall by the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission.  Non-governmental partners in the conservation project include the Tulare Basin Wetlands Association, California Waterfowl Association, California Outdoor Heritage Alliance and other member groups of Tulare Basin Wildlife Partners.

“We hope to rebuild waterfowl populations in the Pacific Flyway to the levels they were at in the 1970s,” says Scott Frazer, a Service wildlife refuge specialist

The Tulare Basin WMA project area includes existing private wetlands and associated uplands in southern Tulare and northern Kern counties, in the vicinity of Wasco, Calif., and Kern National Wildlife Refuge. Historically, Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater wetland west of the Mississippi and provided habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl annually. While Tulare Lake has vanished due to water diversions for agricultural and municipal uses, remaining private wetlands have been recognized in the Central Valley Joint Venture and North American Waterfowl Management Plans for their importance to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds of the Pacific Flyway.

Easements on land acquired this spring are important building blocks in an effort to arrest and eventually reverse the recent decline in wetlands habitat, Frazer said.  The tracts will help keep adjacent private wetland habitats intact,  The creation of the wildlife management area via conservation easements will also allow Kern Refuge to give private landowners advice on how to manage wetlands for desirable plants, like swamp Timothy (a tiny grass that produces abundant seeds), watergrass and millet that will sustain migratory waterfowl throughout the winter. 

In addition, Frazer says, the Rancho Visalia property contains a crucial uplands component and is home to both the endangered San Joaquin kit fox and blunt-nosed leopard lizard.  Recent sitings of both species provide optimism that these easements sustain the high natural values being protected for future generations of Americans.

For more information about Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area or Kern National Wildlife Refuge, visit:
http://www.fws.gov/kern.

The mission of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is working with others to conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife, plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. We are both a leader and trusted partner in fish and wildlife conservation, known for our scientific excellence, stewardship of lands and natural resources, dedicated professionals and commitment to public service. For more information on our work and the people who make it happen in California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin of southern Oregon, visit http://www.fws.gov/cno .

 

 

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Contact Info: scott frazer, 661 725 2767, scott_frazer@fws.gov