Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
KERN NWR: Funding Approved for 1,042 Acres on Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area
California-Nevada Offices , September 9, 2009
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Hunt clubs in the Tulare Basin help conserve habitat while keeping waterfowl hunting traditions alive (photo: USFWS)
Hunt clubs in the Tulare Basin help conserve habitat while keeping waterfowl hunting traditions alive (photo: USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

by Scott Frazer, Kern NWR
On September 9, The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission approved funding for the Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area (WMA) project, funding the first three conservation easements  to protect 1,042 acres.  Funding for the purchase of the conservation easements comes from proceeds generated by the sale of federal duck stamps.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the creation of Tulare Basin Wildlife Management Area in 2007. Plans call for eventual protection of 22,000 acres in an area between Kern and Pixley National Wildlife Refuges. Ninety percent of the land in the Tulare Basin WMA will be conserved through the purchase of conservation easements from willing landowners.  Conservation easements provide for land to be managed for habitat purposes while allowing landowners to retain ownership.  Service staff  obtained concurrence form the California Fish and Game Commission and Kern and Tulare County supervisors prior to implementing the Tulare Basin WMA project.

C. Jeff Thomson, chairman of Tulare Basin Wetlands Association (TBWA), stated that “we are firmly in support of US Fish and Wildlife Service’s decision to approve the conservation easement project area.”  Supporters also include California Waterfowl Association, California Outdoor Heritage Alliance, and many groups associated with the Tulare Basin Wildlife Partners, relatively new non-governmental organization.”

Bill Gaines, President of the California Outdoor Heritage Alliance (COHA), also played a lead role in securing support for the proposal. In October 2007, Mr. Gaines met with Service Director Dale Hall to review habitat conservation priorities in California, and to discuss the critical importance of the Tulare Basin WMA.

“Historically, the Kern/Tulare Basin provided the largest contiguous block of wetland habitat in the western United States. Roughly 500,000 acres and 80 miles across during a wet year, this vast block of habitat provided vital wintering and staging area for northern pintail and other Pacific Flyway waterfowl, as well as numerous other wetland-dependent species,” said Mr. Gaines. “Today, this once vast habitat area has been reduced to little more than a few thousand acres of public and private managed wetland habitats – representing the greatest percentage loss of critical wetland habitats throughout North America. Approval of the Tulare Basin WMA is a vital step towards reversing this devastating impact.”

The new Tulare Basin WMA project area includes existing private wetlands and associated uplands in southern Tulare and northern Kern counties, in the general vicinity of Wasco, California and Kern National Wildlife Refuge. Historically Tulare Lake was the largest freshwater wetland west of the Mississippi and provided habitat to hundreds of thousands of migratory waterfowl annually. While Tulare Lake has vanished due to water diversions for agricultural and municipal uses, remaining private wetlands have been recognized in the Central Valley Joint Venture and North American Waterfowl Management Plan for their importance to migratory waterfowl and shorebirds of the Pacific Flyway.

The private land habitats targeted by the Tulare Basin WMA have become a scarce resource in the San Joaquin Valley. Wetlands are used by peregrine falcons, bald eagles and more common birds of prey. Dry upland habitats that may be protected in association with wetlands are important to numerous types of wildlife including several species on state and federal threatened or endangered species lists such as the San Joaquin kit fox (federally listed as endangered, and state listed as threatened), and the Tipton kangaroo rat and Blunt-nosed leopard lizard, which are listed as endangered by state and federal authorities. The Tulare Basin WMA will also benefit mountain plover, a federal candidate for listing and burrowing owls, a species of special concern, due to extensive habitat losses throughout California.

For additional information about Tulare Basin WMA, contact Scott Frazer at Kern National Wildlife Refuge (661) 725-2767. 


Contact Info: scott frazer, 661 725 2767, scott_frazer@fws.gov
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