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Central Valley Project Funds Recovery
Photo Credit: Jon Katz and Meghan Gilbart
By Basia Trout
Over many decades, wildlife and its habitats have declined significantly in the Central Valley of California. To help mitigate this loss, the Bureau of Reclamation and the Fish and Wildlife Service co-manage two programs that contribute to the recovery of threatened and endangered species: the Central Valley Project Conservation Program (CVPCP) and the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) Habitat Restoration Program (HRP).
With about $3.5 million available for funding each year, these programs have provided more than $30 million to various organizations and agencies to complete over 130 projects since 1996. Established under separate regulatory and legislative authorities, the CVPCP and HRP share the same objective: to benefit federally listed species affected by the Central Valley Project (CVP) in California.
The CVP is one of the nation’s major water developments. It protects California’s Central Valley from water shortages, improves Sacramento River navigation, produces electric power, protects against floods, provides opportunities for recreation and water quality enhancement, and delivers water to farms, homes, industries, and the environment. At the same time, it has had inevitable impacts on the valley’s wildlife.
Each year, the CVPCP and HRP receive and evaluate conservation project proposals under a single integrated process. The programs are guided by a technical team composed of biologists and managers from Reclamation, the Service, and the California Department of Fish and Game. Potential projects are ranked based on established priorities related to species affected, critical habitats, and geographic areas. Proposals considered for funding under both programs are grouped into four categories: habitat protection, habitat restoration, research, and other projects described below.
The programs have limited funding and therefore rely heavily on contributions by project partners. In fact, project applicants are highly encouraged to seek complementary sources of funding.
Twelve to 15 projects are funded annually. Approximately 50 percent of the funds go toward the protection of habitats through fee title acquisition or conservation easements. For example, in 2004 the programs contributed funding to purchase a conservation easement on the 3,185-acre (1,290-hectare) Forster Ranch in San Joaquin County. Partners included the Bureau of Land Management and The Nature Conservancy. This property supports important vernal pool and grassland habitats, and such endangered species as the vernal pool tadpole shrimp (Lepidurus packardi). The project was considered urgent, as urban and vineyard development surrounded the property.
Photo Credit: John Thomson
About 20 percent of program funds go toward habitat restoration. In 2004, for example, funding was provided to River Partners, a not-for-profit conservation organization, to restore and enhance 226 acres (91 ha) of riparian habitat on the Drumheller Slough Unit of the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge in Glenn County. Restoration activities included planting a variety of native plant species, reducing non-native plants, integrating native grasses with woody plants, and preserving existing native plants. Species that benefit from this project include the threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle (Desmocerus californicus dimorphus) and numerous neotropical migratory bird species.
Another 20 percent of program funds are directed toward targeted research activities that address status, habitat needs, and behavior of specific listed species affected by the CVP. In 2004 and 2005, the CVPCP partnered with the Endangered Species Recovery Program at California State University, Stanislaus, and provided funding towards a three-year project to reintroduce the endangered San Joaquin kit fox (Vulpes macrotis mutica) into vacant or restored lands in the San Joaquin Valley. Genetic and behavioral studies are being conducted on potential source populations and individual foxes to determine which are most suited for successful reintroduction.
Finally, the CVPCP and HRP contribute about 10 percent of funds for other activities such as public outreach and education, development of land management plans, and captive breeding and reintroduction that promote conservation of CVP-affected species and habitats. For example, the programs have contributed more than $2 million toward the construction of breeding pens, riparian habitat restoration, and captive breeding and release of the riparian brush rabbit (Sylvilagus bachmani riparius), a critically endangered mammal in the San Joaquin Valley.
Over the last 11 years, the CVPCP and HRP have provided an excellent source of funding for crucial projects that protect and restore many listed species of California’s Central Valley. These programs are making an important difference in helping to recover species whose habitat has been, and continues to be, subject to degradation, destruction, and fragmentation.
Basia Trout, a natural resource specialist in the Bureau of Reclamation’s Northern California Area Office and a member of the CVPCP/HRP Technical Team, can be reached at 530-528-0512 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Program Managers for the CVPCP/HRP are John Thomson (Bureau of Reclamation) and Caroline Prose (Fish and Wildlife Service). John can be reached at 916- 978-5052 or email@example.com; Caroline can be reached at 916-414-6575, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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