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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Converting Commercial Salt Ponds to Wetlands for Wildlife at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge

Region 8, November 27, 2006

One of the largest tidal wetland restoration projects on the West Coast is underway at Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge near San Francisco, California.  The South Bay Restoration Project began about five years ago and will eventually transform 9,500 acres of former industrial salt ponds into quality coastal wetland habitat for the millions of shorebirds, waterfowl and other wildlife that rest or nest on the refuge each year. 


The restoration project became possible after Cargill Corporation sold 25 square miles of industrial salt ponds to federal and state agencies in 2002. The Service acquired 5,500 acres to be managed as part of Don Edwards San Francisco Bay NWR,  the State of California acquired 7,000 acres to by managed the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). Restoration of the wetlands is taking place in phases, managed jointly by the Service, CDFG and the California Coastal Conservancy. The projects' goals are to restore and enance a mix of wetland habitats; provide for flood management and, provide public access and recreation opportunities.


Visitors can hear more about this incredible project and view some of the ponds during special Salt Pond Tours conducted weekly during January and February 2007.  Tours are scheduled for January 13 and February 10 from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m.; and January 21 to February 18 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Reservations are required. For more information, and directions to the tour site in Menlo Park, call the Refuge at 510-792-0222 extension 43.


The Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge is located in south San Francisco Bay, Calif., and is one of the largest urban refuges in the United States. The 30,000-acre refuge is an island of wildlife habitat in a burgeoning metropolitan area of 7 million people.  The refuge consists primarily of tidal marsh, salt ponds, mud flats, and seasonal wetlands acting as a keystone to the preservation of the biological and physical integrity of San Francisco Bay. Wintering waterfowl make extensive use of the area, averaging 45,000-75,000 each winter. More than 500,000 shorebirds make use of the mud flats and salt ponds. Globally significant numbers of at least eight species of shorebirds visit this refuge during migration.


The refuge provides habitat for nine species of federally-listed threatened or endangered species and is home to 227 species of birds, including 8 percent of the world population of the western snowy plover. It protects 60 percent of the world's population of California clapper rail, as well as a substantial number of salt marsh harvest mouse, both found only in the remaining tidal marshes of San Francisco Bay. 


More information about the refuge is available on the Internet at: http://www.fws.gov/desfbay/

Contact Info: Scott Flaherty, , Scott_Flaherty@fws.gov