Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin
Help Wanted: Saving California’s only freshwater turtle
Food, water and shelter for California’s only freshwater turtle are all becoming scarcer across the Western U.S. Wildlife experts say that worsening drought conditions, habitat loss and fragmentation, and invasive species could threaten the long-term survival of western pond turtles in the wild.
A blueprint for recovery of endangered wetland plant on California’s Central Coast
La Graciosa thistle (Cirsium scariousum var. loncholepis), a spiny wetland plant with white flowers tinged with a lavender hue, now has a blueprint for recovery, thanks to a draft plan prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and partners.
Credit: Kristie Scarazzo / USFWS
“Homage” to history
After decades of hard work by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employees, volunteers, tribes and partners and after two previous efforts in the '80s and '90s, the Lanphere and Ma-le’l Dunes were finally recognized as a National Natural Landmark on January 19, 2021.
Credit: Andrea Pickart / USFWS
The return of red-legged frogs
“It was serendipitous,”said Clark Winchell from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service about a recent collaborative endeavor to bring California red-legged frogs back to their natural habitat in Southern California after they were extirpated decades ago.
Photo courtesy of Bradford Hollingsworth / San Diego Natural History Museum
Rumble in the river: brook vs. bull trout
In the fictional world of trout wrestling, one of the most uneven matchups would pit brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis) against bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus). When squaring off in their aquatic ‘ring,’ the invasive and scrappy ‘brookies’ are bullies, outcompeting the native bull trout by eating all the food, hogging the best shelter and generally pushing them around.
Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Coleman National Fish Hatchery and Mt. Lassen Trout Farm have come together to raise endangered Sacramento River winter-run Chinook salmon and release them into Battle Creek as part of the Jumpstart Project aimed at reintroducing winter-run to the watershed.
Credit: Jake Sisco / USFWS
Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes
Over thousands of years, the shifting sands of time built dunes that reached 120 feet high and stretched for 2 miles along the San Joaquin River, about 35 miles east of San Francisco. Isolated from similar habitats, the Antioch Dunes slowly developed species found nowhere else in the world.
Credit: Brandon Honig / USFWS
Restoration brings salmon, people back to Clear Creek
“You get to see big male salmon chasing each other away from females and see females digging redds, or nests, it’s exciting.” said Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Charlie Chamberlain. “It’s something a lot of people would not expect to see in California except on National Geographic.”
Credit: Brandon Honig / USFWS
Pacific Southwest Highlights
A Conversation with Liquidverve - Connecting with nature through photography
Alex Miller is a Los Angeles-based portrait photographer who was born and raised in Berlin, Germany. With over three years of professional photography under her belt, many within the social media community may recognize Miller as “Liquidverve.” Unlike most photographers, Miller uses natural light in her work 99% of the time. We caught up with her recently to find out how nature impacts her art and why we should preserve these wild places.
Daniel Cisneros, first-ever Kendra Chan Conservation Fellow, stands beneath an island oak (Quercus tomentella) in a cloud forest on Santa Rosa Island, one of the northern Channel Islands off the California coast. Photo courtesy of Daniel Cisneros
A legacy lives on through the Kendra Chan Conservation Fellowship
Daniel Cisneros stood atop one of the highest peaks on Santa Rosa Island off the California coast, admiring the island oak and bishop pine trees, an ancient forest among the clouds brought back to life after years of human disturbance.
Cisneros, an ecology student at the University of California, Santa Barbara, is working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Santa Barbara Botanic Garden to conduct a germination study for five rare plant species on the Channel Islands. Their work will shed light on the role seed banking can play to help struggling plant populations.
Cisneros’ research is made possible by the Kendra Chan Conservation Fellowship, a first-of-its kind annual program that honors the late wildlife biologist Kendra Chan by giving budding scientists an opportunity to learn about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s mission and help endangered species.
The Clayton family has donated 8.1 acres of riverfront property to the Bureau of Reclamation to enable the creation of a “nature-like fishway” that will allow salmon to swim around Sack Dam. “We decided to work with the Program because we believe that restoration is a good thing,” said Connley Clayton, far left. “Wouldn’t it be great if everyone could create some habitat on their land to help the environment?” Credit: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
Land donation helps threatened salmon in San Joaquin River - Spring-run Chinook salmon will get a needed path around Sack Dam
When Connley Clayton, a third-generation farmer in California’s Central Valley, looks over the San Joaquin River flowing past Sack Dam, he can see that the river — and its salmon — are on their way to recovery.
“We are so happy that the river is running again,” said Clayton, 75, who lives with his wife in El Nido, about 10 miles north of the dam.
Before 2016, the river would often run completely dry below Sack Dam, he said, because the entire flow was diverted for agricultural use. Then the San Joaquin River Restoration Program — a collaboration of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Reclamation, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and California Department of Water Resources — began releasing water through Friant Dam specifically for river restoration.
After being used as a firefighting base during the 2020 Dolan Fire, Arroyo Seco Ranch was left with highly compacted soils and minimal native grasses or flowering plants remaining. Seed drilling helped restore pollinator habitat and improve soil health. Photo courtesy of Catherine Stanley
Seeds for Success - Drill seeding project creates pollinator habitat
In February of this year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Big Sur Land Trust completed a 5-acre pilot drill seeding project at the Arroyo Seco Ranch, west of Greenfield, California. This seeding project marks the beginning of a long-term goal to establish “waystations” for monarch butterflies and other pollinators along the Central California coast.
Arroyo Seco Ranch had been managed as a livestock grazing operation for generations, which maintained the area as a grassland with native grass and flowering plant species that provided good pollinator habitat. However, during the Dolan Fire in 2020, the area was used as a base for firefighters and firefighting equipment which resulted in compacted soil and very little grass cover remaining. After the fire, the Land Trust was reimbursed to help restore pollinator habitat that was damaged by the firefighting activities.
Andy Spyrka, the project manager and leader from the Ventura County Resource Conservation District, explains the proper planting techniques to a group of volunteers. Credit: Mary Teague/USFWS
Improving overwintering habitat for western monarch butterflies in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties
Mary Teague, Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service began working with the Ventura County Resource Conservation District and private landowners in 2020 to restore and enhance three monarch butterfly overwintering groves in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties.
The Monarch Species Status Assessment identifies the loss, senescence, and incompatible management of overwintering sites in California as one of the primary drivers of the decline of the western population.
The Directorate Fellows Program - A life-changing opportunity to work in conservation
Are you an active college or graduate student interested in joining the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? Well, the Directorate Fellows Program may just be your golden ticket.
“Growing up, I always had an admiration for wildlife,” said Dimitri Pappas, fish and wildlife biologist for the Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office. “I was always so impressed that animals didn’t have grocery stores — that they were responsible for surviving off their surroundings. The moment I learned species have gone extinct from human-related causes, was the moment I knew that my dream would involve helping them.”
Vince Gerwe, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer and former president and founder of Friends of California Condors Wild and Free, observes condors through a spotting scope. Vince helped track condors as a volunteer and was instrumental to the recovery program. Credit: USFWS
Honoring Vince Gerwe - U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer and California condor conservation hero
We were saddened to hear of the passing of local conservation hero, Vince Gerwe. Gerwe served as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service volunteer for more than 15 years, and was the founder and president of Friends of the California Condors Wild and Free, a non-profit partner dedicated to engaging local communities with the conservation and recovery of the endangered California condor.
In collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Gerwe led countless tours of Bitter Creek and Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuges (NWRs) for more than 12 years, offering children and adults the remarkable experience of seeing California condors in the wild. He provided outreach and education programs, speaking to thousands of people at community events and gatherings.
A Laguna Mountains skipper pupa awaits transfer to its protective container. The temporary plastic containers were used to transport the pupae from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance's Butterfly Conservation Lab to the Cleveland National Forest. Credit: Jessica D'ambrosio/USFWS
Back to a “biodiversity hotspot” - After more than 20 years, Laguna Mountains skipper returned to historic range in Southern California
In a historic first, a partnership of wildlife and conservation experts recently reintroduced the federally endangered Laguna Mountains skipper (Pyrgus ruralis lagunae) to a portion of its range in San Diego County.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, Osborne Biological Consulting and WildSpring Ecology released 23 pupae in the Laguna Mountains to reestablish the butterfly in its namesake habitat, where it has been absent for more than two decades.
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The Western Monarch
The Monarch Story...
The monarch butterfly is one of the most recognizable species of wildlife in all of America. They undertake one of the world's most remarkable and fascinating migrations, traveling thousands of miles over many generations from Mexico, across the United States, to Canada. Learn about their amazing journey and how you can help them.
Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office - 2020 Year in Review
California Condor Website
California Condor Recovery Program
The California Condor Recovery Program (Recovery Program) is a multi-entity effort, led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to recover the endangered California condor. Cooperators include the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, Arizona Game and Fish Department, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, San Diego Zoo Los Angeles Zoo, Oregon Zoo, Santa Barbara Zoo, Chapultepec Zoo, Peregrine Fund, and Ventana Wildlife Society, among others. Learn more here...
And see the condor nest cameras here!
FieldNotes showcases the activities, events and conservation work of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, including here in the Pacific Southwest Region. The articles inside are written by our employees and reflect the efforts of the Service and our partners in conserving and preserving the unique natural resources across the nation. You can find stories specific to California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin. After you've visited FieldNotes, follow us on these social media channels...