U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

a man driving a fire tanker

As part of his Australian firefighting orientation, Kyle Bonham learned how to drive one of the large fire tankers. Photo courtesy of Kyle Bonham/USFWS

Battling bushfires – Refuge fire captain answers the call

As the plane descended into Brisbane, Australia, Kyle Bonham, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fire engine captain, realized he had lost an entire day crossing the International Date Line. Bonham, who is stationed at Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex in California, was on his way to a month-long deployment fighting the devastating bushfires ‘down under.’

After landing, the pilot announced that a group of American firefighters were on board, arriving to provide much needed help to exhausted local volunteers who had been battling the widespread and destructive flames for months.

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sign showing the new name of the wildlife management area

A sign shows the newly named Steve Thompson North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area. Credit: Rebecca Fabbri/USFWS

North Central Valley WMA renamed in honor of Steve Thompson

Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt officially named the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s North Central Valley Wildlife Management Area after Service employee Steve Thompson this week at a small ceremony with family, friends and colleagues.

The very first regional director for the Service’s California Great Basin Region in Sacramento from 2002-2008, the late Steve Thompson had a decorated 32-year career in conservation and public service. He earned the 2007 Presidential Rank award for Distinguished Senior Professionals and Executives, the highest-ranking award for a federal employee and the first time a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service employee ever received it.

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Recovery Champions

Funding from Measure AA will expand habitat on the restored salt ponds of the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge for pelicans, cormorants, terns, stilts, gulls and other bird species. Photo courtesy of Judy Irving

Reversing history in the San Francisco Bay – Parcel tax funds pay dividends for restoration on Bay Area refuges

Since the 19th century, close to 90 percent of the marshland that historically ringed San Francisco Bay has been lost to development. The effects of that loss include diminished wildlife habitat, increased flood risk, degraded water quality, and far fewer opportunities for nature-based recreation.

In 2016, more than two-thirds of voters across nine counties supported ballot Measure AA, a $12 per year parcel tax over 20 years to provide $500 million in restoration funding to reverse some of those effects.

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Close photo of a condor's head

Condor 262 (pictured) is the father of recently-fledged condor chick 980, marking the 25th condor chick to successfully fledge in the wild in the Southern California flock. Credit: USFWS

Endangered condor takes first flight – One quarter of California condor population in Southern California now wild-fledged

An endangered California condor chick has successfully fledged from a cliff-side nest near the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Hopper Mountain National Wildlife Refuge in Ventura County, California. The young condor took its first short flight on Oct. 14, six months after being raised by its parents in the mountains above Fillmore. Out of the 100 birds in the Southern California flock, 25 have now successfully fledged in the wild.

The chick, known as condor 980, hatched on April 10 and was raised by 9-year-old female condor 563 and 18-year-old male condor 262. The chick’s mother, condor 563, was hatched and raised at the Oregon Zoo before being released at Bitter Creek National Wildlife Refuge in 2011. The chick’s father, condor 262, comes from the first established nest in the wild since the species was re-introduced in 1992.

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Sam Stands on a grassy hill with more grassy hills and a grey sky behind her.

Sam Lantz at Milagra Ridge, where she helped translocate endangered Mission blue butterflies. Photo courtesy of Sam Lantz/USFWS

From caterpillars to a career – A biologist’s pathway to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Growing up between Davis and Winters, California, Samantha Lantz raised goats and horses. She also collected monarch caterpillars every year and raised them until they became butterflies. “I think my interest in animals sparked my interest in biology,” she said.

It was an interest that turned into a career. Today, Lantz, who goes by Sam, is a biologist for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Sacramento Field Office. She works in the Recovery Division reviewing the latest science available on threatened and endangered species and drafting reports that include strategies for helping their wild populations recover.

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a man in camo stands in a river near the bank with green shrubs behind him

Matt Brown has spearheaded efforts to increase instream flows in Battle Creek and provided fisheries expertise in the construction of the Battle Creek Salmon and Steelhead Restoration Project. Credit: Jim Earley/USFWS

Service employee recognized for fish recovery work – Brown’s ‘herculean’ efforts to restore fish habitat leads to American Fisheries Society honor

For over 25 years, Matt Brown has worked tirelessly and collaboratively in the Sacramento River watershed to enhance, restore and re-populate winter, spring, fall, and late-fall run Chinook salmon and Central Valley steelhead populations.

The deputy project leader for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Red Bluff office has focused on tributaries of the Sacramento River, where he has worked with numerous state and federal agencies and non-governmental organizations.

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A man sits on green grass with his back to the viewer, looking at brown and white cows with forested hills in the background

Blair Hart with his ‘girls,’ part of the beef cattle herd he manages on the Little Shasta and Butte Creek ranches in northern California. Photo courtesy of the Hart family trust

Safe Harbor on the Hart – Ranching family looks to past for future of conservation

In the shadow of Mt. Shasta lies the Butte Creek Ranch, its alpine meadows carpeted in lush green grass sprinkled with colorful wildflowers and bordered by a mature forest. Cows and calves peacefully doze in a clearing as an eagle soars overhead.

For over 160 years, this summer scene has played out for six generations of the Hart family. Their ranching legacy began in 1852 when Louisa Hart arrived in the Shasta Valley with her two toddler sons to start a new life working the land. Recently, the Harts guaranteed the continuation of this legacy by working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to develop a plan that balances their land use with conserving the rich natural resources of Butte Creek.

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A man lying on the ground above water holding a Paiute cutthroat trout.

Scientists believe that between 550 to 850 thousand years ago, a natural barrier formed in Silver King Creek in the Carson-Iceberg Wilderness Study Area of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest, isolating one group of fish from the rest, creating a new species - the Paiute cutthroat trout.
Photo courtesy of Jim Harvey/U.S. Forest Service

The rarest trout in North America makes a comeback

On Sept. 18, 2019, 30 federally threatened Paiute cutthroat trout were reintroduced into their historic home in Alpine County, California by state and federal biologists.

This date marks the first time that this trout has occupied its original home waters in nearly a century. Chad Mellison, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was one of the biologists who helped make it happen.

“It was an emotional day. Very rarely do we (biologists) get to see a listed species that we’ve worked on for our entire career, especially with so many challenges, be reintroduced into almost all of their historic native range. This practically never happens," Mellison said of reintroducing the trout. "I’ve lived and breathed this for 18 years, so it's definitely something to be proud of."

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Three firefighters ignite control fires in a forest

The ignition team lights the fire in a carefully executed grid pattern across the forest floor. Drip torches, which contain a flaming mixture of gas and diesel fuel, are the most common tool used to ignite prescribed fires. Credit: Susan Sawyer/USFWS

Burning for wildlife – Prescribed fire improves habitat and protects neighbors

In a forest few people ever visit, scattered black logs burned over a decade ago peek out of the dense yellowed vegetation littering the forest floor. This contrasts with the bright green shrubs on the slope and the needles adorning tall evergreen trees above.

Over the course of a week in October, about 170 acres of this landscape at Bear Valley National Wildlife Refuge in southern Oregon was altered by fire. Not an out of control, high-intensity wildfire, but rather one that was started intentionally by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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