U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

Dave Johnson, fish and wildlife biologist at the Services’ Yreka office, indicates where juvenile Coho salmon and steelhead find food and shelter near a beaver dam analog structure on Sugar Creek in Scott Valley, California. Credit: John Heil/USFWS

Dave Johnson, fish and wildlife biologist at the Services’ Yreka office, indicates where juvenile Coho salmon and steelhead find food and shelter near a beaver dam analog structure on Sugar Creek in Scott Valley, California. Credit: John Heil/USFWS

'We became beavers' – Service and partners design project to simulate what beavers had not been around to do for decades

A little over five years ago, a stretch of Sugar Creek in Siskiyou County’s pristine Scott Valley was completely dry. Today it’s a wetland teeming with life.

What caused this landscape to be so completely transformed in a relatively short amount of time? A team of biologists modeling the habits of a rotund rodent with a big overbite – the beaver.

Historically, the Scott Valley was referred to as “Beaver Valley” due to the abundance of the lumbering dam builders. However, by the mid-1800s the booming fur trade had wiped out most northern California beaver populations.

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A scene from Rice Canyon in the Ojai Valley after the Thomas Fire. Photo courtesy of Nathan Wickstrum/OVLC

Citizen scientist, Cy Phillips received a $750 grant from the Klamath Basin Audubon Society in 2011 to build 80 kestrel nest boxes for installation in the Malin-Tule Lake area. Credit: Jon Myatt/USFWS

Cy Phillips, citizen scientist – Refuge volunteer's decade-long kestrel nesting project leads to resurgence of North America's smallest raptor

Driving south along Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway on the western edge of Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, 77-year-old Cy Phillips scans the landscape on a cold, cloudy March morning. He is looking for an old oak tree blown down during a recent storm.

Phillips checks his GPS and slows his red 1996 Ford Explorer, pulling to the side of the road. “There is it is,” he says, pointing to a gnarled tree laying on its side on the rocky hillside about 40 yards away. A nesting box for American kestrels is attached to the tree’s trunk -- safe, but inaccessible at the moment.

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AmeriCorps team member Tucker Merbaugh, along with employees of the Riverside County Flood Control District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and community volunteers work together to cultivate native riparian plants along the Meadowview Creek streambank. Credit: Maideline Sanchez/USFWS

AmeriCorps team member Tucker Merbaugh, along with employees of the Riverside County Flood Control District, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and community volunteers work together to cultivate native riparian plants along the Meadowview Creek streambank. Credit: Maideline Sanchez/USFWS

From liability to asset – Tragic death sparks shift in community’s restoration focus

Teri Biancardi remembers vividly the day a dangerous restoration issue in her community came to light.

“Two little boys were digging tunnels along the streambank. The tunnels collapsed on top of the boys and only one was able to escape. This happened just six inches from our property line,” recalled the board member of the Meadowview Community Association — a homeowners association in Temecula, Calif.

Prior to the tragedy, the association was working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, implementing upland restoration projects such as controlling non-native plants and weeds using goats, and installing burrowing owl nest boxes.

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A scene from Rice Canyon in the Ojai Valley after the Thomas Fire. Photo courtesy of Nathan Wickstrum/OVLC

A scene from Rice Canyon in the Ojai Valley after the Thomas Fire. Photo courtesy of Nathan Wickstrum/OVLC

From Devastation to Collaboration – Service joins partnership to restore native habitat after devastating wildfire

Just two hours northwest of Los Angeles you’ll find a small city called Ojai. The perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of big city life, Ojai provides urban professionals an escape to a picturesque valley backdropped by the Topatopa mountains.

A town like no other, it’s no surprise that many of those visitors end up living the rest of their lives here. The tight-knit community of artists, free spirits and outdoor enthusiasts take pride in their beloved town and local natural resources.

In December 2017, the largest wildfire in modern California history threatened the peaceful getaway.

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Winter-run juvenile Chinook salmon are loaded into a tanker truck for transport to the Battle Creek release site as part of a reintroduction plan to repopulate winter Chinook salmon into upper Battle Creek. Credit: Jake Sisco/USFWS

Winter-run juvenile Chinook salmon are loaded into a tanker truck for transport to the Battle Creek release site as part of a reintroduction plan to repopulate winter Chinook salmon into
upper Battle Creek.
Credit: Jake Sisco/USFWS

Reclaiming the lost population – Repopulating winter run Chinook salmon in Battle Creek after loss of juvenile population during 2014, 2015 drought

Winter-run Chinook salmon are unique in that they spawn during the summer months, from mid-April to mid-August, when California is at its hottest. This proved to be catastrophic in 2014 and 2015 when the drought killed nearly the entire in-river juvenile salmon population.

This event prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to reinitiate the captive broodstock program at Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery, part of the Coleman National Fish Hatchery Complex. The program started in 1992 and was suspended in the early 2000s.

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Chris Nicolai, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno, Nevada, has been a waterfowl fanatic since he was old enough to ride a bike. Now he works on conserving migratory birds full time. Here, Nicolai is shown holding geese he banded in Alaska. Courtesy photo: Chris Nicolai/USFWS

Chris Nicolai, a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno, Nevada, has been a waterfowl fanatic since he was old enough to ride a bike. Now he works on conserving migratory birds full time. Here, Nicolai is shown holding geese he banded in Alaska. Courtesy photo:
Chris Nicolai/USFWS

On the flyway highway – Chris Nicolai's passion for waterfowl leads to goose migration coincidence

Chris Nicolai’s serendipitous experience with a snow goose is sort of like the classic film Fly Away Home, but in real life.

The 1996 movie dramatized the actual experiences of Bill Lishman who, in 1986, started training Canada geese to follow his ultralight aircraft. He later succeeded in leading their migration in 1993 through his program "Operation Migration."

Nicolai, a waterfowl biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Reno, Nevada, has been a waterfowl fanatic since he was old enough to ride a bike. By the time he was in his early teens, he had seen every single waterfowl species native to North America. Now he is conserving migratory birds full-time, and after banding a mottled duck in Louisiana in June 2018, Nicolai can officially say he has trapped and banded every native waterfowl species on the continent.

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Service biologists work on the Delta looking for the elusive Delta smelt.

The Santa Clara River is a rarity in Southern California: a river largely untouched by channelization and boasts an abundance of wildlife. Courtesy photo: Santa Clara River Conservancy

One river remains – Untouched by development, the Santa Clara River remains the only wild river in Southern California

VENTURA COUNTY, California – Southern California rivers are not known for their abundance of water flow. Yet, when the rains do come, the rivers can swell in dramatic fashion.

Attempts to tame inconstant rivers have resulted in channelized, dammed or leveed waterways that resemble concrete canals more than Instagram-worthy landscapes. But one wild river remains: the Santa Clara River.

Beginning with headwaters in both the Los Padres and Angeles National Forests, the river meanders for more than 100 miles through Los Angeles and Ventura counties before flowing into the estuary on McGrath State Beach. In dry months, many areas of the Santa Clara River flow completely underground.

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Service biologists work on the Delta looking for the elusive Delta smelt.

Sunrise on Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge. The recently released biological opinions focuses on the effects of the Bureau of Reclamation’s modified operating plan for Klamath Project water delivery operations on federally listed species, including the impacts on endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers, and threatened coho salmon. Credit: USFWS

Service, National Marine Fisheries release biological opinions on BOR’s modified operating plan for Klamath Project water delivery operations

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the National Marine Fisheries Service released coordinated biological opinions on March 29, 2019, on the effects of the Bureau of Reclamation’s modified operating plan for Klamath Project water delivery operations on federally listed species, including the impacts on endangered Lost River and shortnose suckers, and threatened coho salmon.

The agency’s opinions concluded that BOR’s modified operations plan for the Klamath Project is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of federally listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of their designated critical habitat.

“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to recovery of the Lost River suckers and shortnose suckers and used the best available science to offer a plan that will sustain these fisheries,” said the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Paul Souza, regional director of the pacific southwest Region, located in Sacramento. “We believe captive propagation is an important part of the species' future recovery.”

Download the full biological opinion here (PDF, 5.2MB)...

Condors are highly intelligent, social birds. These condors await the release of their fellow birds, which are below them in the flight pen at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge awaiting health check-ups by biologists. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri/USFWS

Condors are highly intelligent, social birds. These condors await the release of their fellow birds, which are below them in the flight pen at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge awaiting health check-ups by biologists. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri/USFWS

Federal-tribal partnership inks plan to bring California condor back to Pacific Northwest

The majestic California condor once soared the skies over western North America from British Columbia to Mexico. However, by 1985, the condor had spiraled down to the brink of extinction, with only 22 birds remaining. These remaining birds were taken into captivity in a last ditch effort to save the species. That effort paid off. Today, thanks to three decades of dedicated work by a range of partners, 290 condors now fly free in the wild, all in the Desert Southwest and northern Baja Peninsula. Now, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Yurok Tribe of Northern California and National Park Service are taking the next big step in the condor’s recovery with a proposal to reintroduce America’s largest land bird to parts of the Pacific Northwest, where it has not been seen for over a century.

Building on a decade’s worth of preparation initiated by the Yurok Tribe, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing to establish a collaboratively managed new California condor release facility in Redwood National Park, within the Tribe’s ancestral territory. Like the southwestern population, this new population would be given the special status of “Nonessential, Experimental” under the Endangered Species Act, which would provide protections to the released birds while also allowing flexibility to landowners and other stakeholders potentially affected by the reintroduction of this federally listed endangered species.

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