U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

Three turtles on a log in water

Three western pond turtles bask on a log in an Oregon wetland. Western pond turtles are this region’s only native freshwater turtle and without conservation efforts their populations will continue to decline. Credit: Simon Wray/Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife

The rocks that swim – western pond turtles

What looks and feels like a river rock, has four webbed feet, a pointy snout with beady eyes, buries itself during winter, and dines on small frogs, fish, aquatic insects and plants?

These are attributes of the two species of western pond turtle, the northwestern and the southwestern, found in ponds and streams from Baja California north through California, Oregon, and Washington and into a portion of Nevada.

They are unique and charismatic hard-shelled reptiles and this region’s only native freshwater turtle. As opportunistic omnivores that eat a wide variety of prey, they are an important part of the ecosystem. Recently however, western pond turtle numbers have been declining, and in response the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers them to be an “at-risk” species. Without critical conservation efforts their numbers are likely to continue to decrease.

See the full story...

a black, grey and white tern sits on a nest on a beach featuring some yellow flowers surrounding it

An adult California least tern sits on its nest. Photo by Mark Pavelka/USFWS

It’s tern up time in California

California has once again welcomed tiny and graceful visitors to beaches, estuaries, river mouths and lagoons. The federally endangered California least tern (Sterna antillarum browni), the smallest of the tern species, returns to California — from the bay to the border — each year during the first or second week of April to feast, rest, and nest.

Least terns hover over the surf zone or shallow estuarine waters and can be seen plunging into the water from 10–30 feet to capture small, slender-bodied fish like anchovies and topsmelt. They target and capture the fish in the top few feet of the water column.

See the full story...

close up photo of milk-vetch plant with lavender petals and some light greenery

Ash Meadows milk-vetch. Credit: USFWS

Meet the marvelous milk-vetches

Milk-vetches are part of the largest group of plants in the world known as Astragulus and consists of about 3,000 identified species. This group is part of the legume family, which includes peas. In California, Nevada and the Klamath Basin, some of these milk-vetches grow in habitats that are incredibly inhospitable to most plants. Let’s meet a few of these tough and resilient beauties.

See the full story...

A large black colored bird with its wings stretched out above its body takes off from the ground

With a wingspan of almost 10 feet, the California condor is the largest soaring land bird in North America. Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS

For the first time in a century, California condors will take flight in the Pacific Northwest - Partners help the nation’s largest land bird return to the northern portion of its historic range

For the first time in 100 years, the endangered California condor will return to the Pacific Northwest. Once on the brink of extinction, this iconic species has made significant steps towards recovery. Today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Park Service, and the Yurok Tribe announced a final rule that will help facilitate the creation of a new California condor release facility for the reintroduction of condors to Yurok Ancestral Territory and Redwood National Park, which is in the northern portion of the species’ historic range. This facility will be operated by the Northern California Condor Restoration Program, a partnership between Redwood National Park and Yurok Tribe.

See the full story...

a photo composite of six photos of women in the outdoors.

Photo composite by Jake Sisco/USFWS

Women’s History Month 2021

Every March during Women’s History Month we celebrate the inspiring women of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the California-Great Basin Region. Please join us as we highlight two stories of women working together to advance science and conservation.

A team of women from the Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office manage a program that gathers information on the abundance and location of threatened Delta smelt in the upper San Francisco Bay Estuary. This information is reported in near real-time and informs water management decisions that affects millions of Californians.

See the full story...

two women taking a selfie outside

Kristie Scarazzo, botanist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (right), and Lindsey Roddick, senior ecologist with the Land Conservancy of San Luis Obispo County (left) are working with partners to help recover the endangered Nipomo Mesa lupine and the dune ecosystem it inhabits. Credit: USFWS

Women’s History Month 2021

Every March during Women’s History Month we celebrate the inspiring women of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the California-Great Basin Region. Please join us as we highlight two stories of women working together to advance science and conservation.

Along California’s Central Coast, women from the Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office have come together with other women conservationists to develop long-term management strategies to recover the endangered Nipomo Mesa lupine and preserve the last of California’s untouched coastal dunes, where the tiny plant lives.

See the full story...

a man in a boat on a river holds a hook with a dead salmon on it.

Curtis Brownfield, fish biologist for the Service, checks the tag number on a salmon carcass pulled up from the depths of the Sacramento River. Credit: Jake Sisco/USFWS

Counting the dead to account for the living - A summer survey for a winter-run

The feel of the wind in your face, the sound of a boat motor roaring down a river, the spray of water, the warm sun on your back and the smell of rotting flesh. This is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists on the Sacramento River experience when conducting winter-run Chinook salmon carcass surveys.

“The carcass survey is a cooperative effort between the Service, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission,” said Kevin Niemela, a Service supervisory fish biologist located at the Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office. “Typically, two boats are used to survey the river daily, one operated by the Service and the other operated by PSMFC working under contract through the Department. Each boat travels upstream and searches for carcasses, covering opposite shorelines.”

See the full story...

two Mourning doves perched on a tree branch

A pair of mourning doves strengthen their bond by mutual preening and cooing softly to each other. Doves mate for life and inspired the term ‘lovey dovey’ in the late 1700s. Source: idioms.com. Credit: Tom Koerner/USFWS

Which lovebird are you?

Are you a lovebird? You might be if you point, stare, hop, hoot or cartwheel for your sweetheart! Which of nature’s pairs below best reflects your inner cupid?

The regal bald eagle puts on one of the most spectacular courtship shows. Mated partners lock talons in midflight and then spiral in a free-fall dive known as cartwheeling. Eagles often mate for life, and pairs will return to the same nests year after year. Male bald eagles help with nest construction and raising the eaglets.

See the full story...

a green frong on a green plant

Since the project was completed, the response by wildlife has been tremendous. There has been an increased diversity of birds, mammals, insects and amphibians – like this small chorus frog. Credit: Becca Reeves/USFWS

If you restore it, they will return - Riparian restoration in northern California

Imagine a serene setting in a lush river valley over 300 hundred years ago. Beavers maintained swaths of wetlands, their dams creating thickets of willows and cottonwoods attracting billions of beneficial native insects. In spring, the calls of birds and frogs filled the air. Western pond turtles basked above pools on fallen logs and schools of young salmon darted below. Salamanders lurked under rocks and ring-necked snakes patrolled for bite-sized morsels. Now picture this scene completely transformed, still and quiet, devoid of most plants and wildlife.

This is what happened in the Scott Valley of northern California when the fur trade arrived in the 1820s followed by the gold rush three decades later. The landscape was forever changed from the ridgetops down to the river bottoms. Habitats were reduced in size and complexity, which decreased species diversity. All strands of nature’s food web were affected, and many species suffered dramatic population declines.

See the full story...

"Pacific Southwest Highlights" presents the latest news about the region.
You can search for recently published stories from our newsroom here.

Recent News Releases

If you wish to view news releases about the
Pacific Southwest Region – California, Nevada, Klamath Basin,
please visit our comprehensive News Release site.

You can also find our archives of older articles archived in "Field Notes."