Partnering Protects Kanaka Valley

Kanaka Valley

Photo: Stephanie Rickabaugh,
USFWS

Sometimes giving a little of what you want can lead to greater benefits for all. This is what happened when two public agencies, the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR),  and the Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), worked together to ensure that improvements necessary for Folsom Dam resulted in a net gain for both public safety and wildlife. The willingness to collaborate combined with the assistance from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the American River Conservancy has resulted in 695 acres of Kanaka Valley being preserved in its entirety for future generations.  

Providing a critical wildlife corridor linking federal and state lands along the South Fork of the American River, Kanaka Valley covers 695 acres of oak woodlands, riparian, chaparral, and grassland habitats. In addition to the wide range of benefits that saving this valley from development provides to all species, the chaparral habitat is home to seven rare plants, including four federally listed plants. 

Preserving this valley happened through the integration of several fish and wildlife conservation programs including the Central Valley Project Conservation Program (CVPCP), and the recommendations in the Service’s Fish and Wildlife Coordination Act (FWCA) report. The bulk of the support for the project resulted from coordination under FWCA, which provides the basic authority for the Service’s involvement in evaluating impacts to fish and wildlife from proposed water resource development projects. It requires that fish and wildlife resources receive equal consideration to other project features.

riparian habitat

Photo: Stephanie Rickabaugh,
USFWS

Different from the Endangered Species Act, FWCA considers non-listed species when consulting with other agencies on environmental impacts as they relate to long-term water projects.  Under FWCA, BOR consulted with the Service on proposed improvements to Folsom Dam. 

The “footprint” of the Joint Federal Project (JFP) involved clearing approximately 160 acres of habitat -oak woodland, riparian, and chaparral- at Folsom Reservoir to make room for the new infrastructure.  Now under construction at Folsom Reservoir, JFP includes building a new spillway, which will provide improved water control of storm-induced floods and addressing flood, earthquakes, and seepage at Folsom Dam. 

Efforts to find a site for mitigating the effects of constructing the JFP on wildlife resources that was connected to other protected land to avoid piecemeal preservation, resulted in the preservation of Kanaka Valley, but only because each party gave a little.  For its part, the Service supported preservation, which is not the usual action pursued under FWCA, because Kanaka Valley land was for sale and in imminent threat of development.  Critical to the effort to save this land was BOR’s ability to put up a large amount of money in order to secure the property.  BLM has also provided funding and agreed to hold and manage the land for public use and species benefit.

Kanaka Valley is now being managed by BLM as part of the Pine Hill Preserve (Preserve), which lies near Cameron Park and Salmon Falls in western El Dorado County, between Highway 50 and Folsom Reservoir.  BLM and its managing partners are working towards the goal set by the Service to protect 5,000 acres there.  Today the Preserve encompasses 3,971 acres with numerous land purchase projects underway.
Thanks to the cooperative spirit of all involved, Kanaka Valley will continue to benefit the public, rare plants, and the wildlife in perpetuity.

Preserving Kanaka Valley through the collaboration has resulted in 695 acres of being preserved in its entirety for future generations.

Providing a critical wildlife corridor linking federal and state lands along the South Fork of the American River, Kanaka Valley covers 695 acres of oak woodlands, riparian, chaparral, and grassland habitats.

Written by Sarah Swenty, External Affairs, Sacramento Field Office