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SACRAMENTO FWO: Stockton Students Learn to Work the Land While Restoring Key Delta Habitat
California-Nevada Offices , January 28, 2009
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Students planted native vegetation at Shin Kee such as willows, buttonwillows and sedges along the banks and levees of the area. (photo: USFWS)
Students planted native vegetation at Shin Kee such as willows, buttonwillows and sedges along the banks and levees of the area. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a
By this fall, the Shin Kee Tract will show signs of all of the planting done by the students. (photo: USFWS)
By this fall, the Shin Kee Tract will show signs of all of the planting done by the students. (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

 By Steve Martarano, Sacramento FWO 

STOCKTON – Students will often be taught how they can help the environment, but don’t usually get the chance to get their hands dirty, so to speak. On a recent cool and breezy day in the Delta, about 40 third- and fourth-grade students from local schools got an opportunity to practice what they had been learning.

 

It was all part of the public kickoff of the Skin Kee Tract project in northwest San Joaquin County, a 142-acre wetlands restoration effort managed and funded by the A.G. Spanos Companies, in conjunction with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Game and the San Joaquin Council of Governments.

 

The enthusiastic students and teachers hiked around the newly created wetlands, and then, under the supervision of a team of biologists, assisted in the planting of several native vegetation species, including willows, buttonwillows and sedges along the banks and levees of the wetlands area. They also catalogued wildlife they might see on the site, such as the Western Pond Turtle, blue heron and snowy egret.

 

“It is so rewarding to see these kids getting hands on experience,” David Nelson, Spanos Companies’ senior Vice President, said during the Jan. 29 event. “They will later be able to see the sticks and clumps of grass they put in the ground today turn into a home for geese, or special food for beavers.”

 

Biologists had previously visited both schools that eventually sent students to the site, teaching them the important role wetlands and native habitat plays in creating and maintaining a healthy environment. The project’s goal was to turn the land back into its natural condition and habitat as part of the Spanos restoration program of more than 300 acres of Delta lands, and to offset other Spanos residential development projects that paved over habitat for the federally threatened giant garter snake.

 

“The Spanos Company was easy to work with, and seemed very anxious to get this restoration going and turn it into an educational opportunity; which is great,” said USFWS biologist Jana Milliken.

 

Restoration of the wetlands is based on a tidal-influenced channel design, according to the Spanos Company. New inlets and outlets will be created to allow free movement of water on and off the property, depending on tides. An open channel will permit fish and other aquatic organisms to establish viable populations in the restored wetlands.

 

Once returned to freshwater wetlands, the area, purchased by the Spanos Company in 2004, will help provide habitat for several state and federal protected species, including the delta smelt and giant garter snake.

 

“This is a celebration of two years of work,” said Nelson, adding that after the area matures, the hope would be to allow public access in some limited form. “Wetlands play an important role in our environment and we’re losing them at a rapid rate.”

 

The Shin Kee Wetland & Habitat Restoration project is located southwest of Interstate 5 and Highway 12 along White Slough in California’s San Joaquin County.

 


Contact Info: Steve Martarano, 916-930-5643, steve_martarano@fws.gov



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