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PACIFIC SOUTHWEST REGION: Celebrating 25 Years of Protecting and Restoring the Middle Sacramento River on the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge
California-Nevada Offices , July 24, 2013
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Restored Rio Vista Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Restored Rio Vista Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: Caroline Prose, USFWS
Kelly Moroney, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, explaining restoration achievements at the restored Rio Vista Unit.
Kelly Moroney, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, explaining restoration achievements at the restored Rio Vista Unit. - Photo Credit: Caroline Prose, USFWS
Restored Rio Vista Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.
Restored Rio Vista Unit of the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge. - Photo Credit: Caroline Prose, USFWS
Joe Silveira, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, presenting award to Dawit Zeleke, The Nature Conservancy, for 25 years of restoration and protection efforts.
Joe Silveira, Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, presenting award to Dawit Zeleke, The Nature Conservancy, for 25 years of restoration and protection efforts. - Photo Credit: Caroline Prose, USFWS

By Caroline Prose

On June 6, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and The Nature Conservancy (TNC) hosted a celebration to recognize 25 years of protecting and restoring the Middle Sacramento River, particularly lands within the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge.

The event was held at the Tehama County Park in Corning, California. Overseeing the celebration were Dan Frisk, Project Leader at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, and Ryan Luster, Sacramento River Project Director for TNC. Other attendees included stakeholders who helped fund land protection and habitat restoration projects along the Middle Sacramento River over the years.

TNC has been an integral part of the protection and restoration efforts. In 1988, little of the Sacramento River’s native riparian habitat remained due to impacts from agriculture and development. As a result, TNC began what was then the largest riparian restoration project in the United States, with a goal to protect and preserve lands along the Middle Sacramento River through acquisition and restoration. These efforts quickly grew and eventually included many partners such as the Service’s Regional Office and Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office, Bureau of Reclamation (Reclamation), U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California State Parks, Wildlife Conservation Board, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Department of Water Resources, River Partners, and the Sacramento River Conservation Area Forum.

TNC’s original concept to restore areas along the Sacramento River has resulted in the planting of well over a million native seedlings to help form the Sacramento River NWR. Established in 1989, the 10,235-acre refuge is located about 90 miles north of the city of Sacramento, consists of 29 units along a 77-mile stretch of the Sacramento River, and is one of five refuges within the Sacramento NWR Complex. The complex contains about 7,600 acres of intensively-managed wetlands, uplands, riparian habitat, and vernal pools, and supports wintering populations of waterfowl; several federally threatened and endangered plants and animals; and numerous other important species.

As part of the significant restoration achievements made at the refuge, Reclamation has contributed over $915,000 to TNC and River Partners, a non-profit organization, for projects along the Sacramento River, through the Central Valley Project Conservation Program (CVPCP) and CVPIA Habitat Restoration Program (HRP) since 2000. Joining with other stakeholders, this funding helped restore 570 acres of riparian woodland habitat on four units that are now part of the refuge.

The CVPCP and HRP are managed jointly by Reclamation and the Service, and their main goal is to support activities that protect, restore, stabilize, and improve habitats that are critical to the protection and recovery of populations of federally listed species whose habitats and populations have been adversely impacted by the construction and operation of the Central Valley Project. These habitats include riparian woodland, vernal pools, and other wetlands (for more information about these grant programs, please see http://www.usbr.gov/mp/cvpcp/

The 25-year celebration included a boat tour of the refuge’s Kopta Slough Unit on the river, and a van tour of the restored Rio Vista Unit. The Rio Vista Unit, now part of the refuge, was one of the areas purchased and restored by TNC. The area had been converted from native riparian habitat to an almond orchard by a private landowner. The orchard failed, and was sold and clear-cut, after which only the stumps remained. TNC purchased the land and in 1993, and began the arduous task of restoring the habitat by removing the stumps and planting native trees and shrubs. Today, the 1,149-acre unit consists mostly of mixed riparian forest, with some valley oak savannah and elderberry savannah for a wild variety of plant and animal species, including the federally threatened valley elderberry longhorn beetle.

After the tours, attendees convened at the park for lunch and socializing, followed by remarks provided by representatives from the Service, TNC, and various involved stakeholders about the successful conservation work through partnerships on the Sacramento River. Additionally, Service staff presented TNC with a beautiful art glass award in gratitude for 25 years of significant restoration and protection efforts along the River.

If you have any questions about this article, please contact:
Caroline Prose, Program Manager for the CVPIA Habitat Restoration Program
916-414-6575 or caroline_prose@fws.gov


Contact Info: Caroline Prose, 916-414-6575, Caroline_Prose@fws.gov



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