U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Pacific Southwest RegionCalifornia, Nevada and Klamath Basin

Pacific Southwest Highlights

a man outside looking through a spotting scope

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.

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a small brown pupa on a blue cloth in a jar

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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a close up of a man holding a small yellow bird

Jorge Ayón, visitor services and urban outreach intern, San Diego National Wildlife Refuge Complex, holds a yellow-breasted chat as part of a U.S. Geological Survey bird banding event. Credit: Jorge Ayón/USFWS

Latino Conservation Week highlight

My refuge, my home

As the sun rises early in the morning, the fog fades away to reveal the secrets of the estuary. The fiddler crabs dance in unison before the next high tide, a peregrine falcon is in hot pursuit of breakfast, and all around, the initial silence is broken by birds of all types of feathers. Despite growing up near the Tijuana Estuary, for Jorge Ayón, some of these sights and sounds were not always obvious.

Although Ayón lived in Tijuana, Mexico, up to the age of 5, he was born and raised in Chula Vista, California. He graduated from Chula Vista High School and pursued higher education at Grossmont College. Even though he was an engineering major, a degree that would make his family very proud, he wasn’t sure if that was something he wanted to do. Ayón continued with his studies and would go hiking with friends during his time off.

“I was into hiking more or less because it was trendy,” recalled Ayón. “If you are from San Diego and part of a certain age group, that’s what your friends go out to do.”

It wasn’t until he found a pair of binoculars while helping his mom spring clean that he would find a bigger purpose in the outdoors.

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a man stands alongside a silver tanker truck.

Lonnie Sullivan, maintenance mechanic at Coleman National Fish Hatchery, waits for his truck to finish filling before driving to San Rafael, California, to release fall-run Chinook salmon into San Francisco Bay. Credit: Laura Mahoney/USFWS

Hatcheries’ drought preparation aids salmon survival

When drought comes to California, fish engage in a struggle to survive. Less rain and snow means a drop in water quality, warmer water and less streamflow, leading to increased disease and predation for many species.

At Northern California’s national fish hatcheries, early drought planning and intervention can be the key to survival for millions of juvenile salmon.

“We were talking about [drought response] in January, hoping weather conditions would improve, but developing a game plan in case they didn’t,” said Brett Galyean, project leader for Coleman and Livingston Stone national fish hatcheries. “We were able to release about 11.8 million fall-run Chinook salmon before river conditions turned poor because we planned ahead and used the tools in our toolbox.”

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 a black ad yellow bee on a yellow and orange flower.

Franklin’s bumblebee, Bombus franklini, on a California poppy has the narrowest range of any bumblebee in the U.S. and possibly the world. Experts hold out hope that this rare species will be found in the wild again. Photo courtesy of Pete Schroeder

Plight of the bumblebees - The buzz on these important pollinators

When the subject of bees comes up, thoughts often range from finding the closest epi-pen to visions of sweet golden nectar slowly dripping from a bear or beehive-shaped bottle.

There are over 3,600 bee species native to the U.S. and Canada, yet none of them produce honey and many do not sting. They do, however, play crucial roles in local, wild ecosystems as pollinators, helping native plants and wildlife flourish. This diverse list includes wood-dwelling carpenter bees, nocturnal sweat bees, colony-commandeering cuckoo bees and 49 known species of bumblebees in the U.S.

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a purple butterfly on a yellow flower

Female Palos Verdes blue butterfly on deerweed. Credit: Jane Hendron/USFWS

Saving SoCal’s rarest butterflies

Summer is in the air and so are butterflies! Southern California is home to several species of federally endangered butterflies. Two of which — the Palos Verdes blue (Glaucopsyche lygdamus palosverdesensis) and Quino checkerspot (Euphydryas editha quino) — are being captive reared and released into the wild to boost recovery.

The Palos Verdes blue, once thought to be extinct, was rediscovered in 1994. This sighting prompted further partnership efforts from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Palos Verdes Peninsula Land Conservancy, America’s Teaching Zoo at Moorpark College and several other organizations to help bring the species back from the brink.

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an orange and black butterfly on a yellow flower

The Oregon silverspot butterfly, listed federally as threatened since 1980, is only found in four places in the world. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Arcata and Newport offices are working with various partners to include multiple zoos, universities, non-profit organizations, local parks and others in an to attempt to save the species with the hope of eventually taking it off the Endangered Species List. Credit: Christine Damiani/USFWS

Oregon silverspot butterfly – ‘Whittling down’ non-natives crucial to save beautiful and rare species

The Oregon silverspot butterfly is beautiful and rare.

Unfortunately, that beauty and rarity is at risk due to habitat degradation. And while the danger is real, there is a plan to address it led by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and their partners.

The butterfly, listed federally as threatened since 1980, is only found in four places in the world: North of Lake Earl, California, and the Siuslaw National Forest, Mt. Hebo and Cascade Head, Oregon. Additionally, the butterfly will likely now be found in Saddle Mountain and Nestucca Bay National Wildlife Refuge where they were reintroduced for the first time in the summer of 2018 after being extinct since the 1970s.

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a bee flying next to a purple flower

A bee flying next to a Packard's milk-vetch. Credit: Justin Fulkerson/USFWS

On Tour with... The Marvelous Milk-vetches

To say the past 15 months has been different is an understatement. Throughout these extreme times nature has continued to not only survive, but reduced human presence in some areas helped wildlife expand their habitat use resulting in the appearance of animals in surprising places including Kashmiri sheep wandering the streets of a Welsh town and the return of dolphins to the canals of Venice, Italy.

Mostly, nature simply continued getting on with its daily job of providing ecosystem benefits to all of us - like the Florida Everglades and the Cypress swamps that aerate and return nutrients to flowing water; and the great native grasslands of the Midwest that help mitigate flooding and contribute to soil fertility. Look behind these iconic habitats, however, and there are literally thousands of much smaller, but no less important habitats that support a stunning array of plants and wildlife, each contributing to the overall ecological health of our country.

Across the array of ecosystems, pollinators like the Monarch butterfly, rusty-patched bumblebee and others are crucial to maintaining the health of these natural systems. For example, some species of milk-vetch plants rely on bees, wasps and other insects for reproduction. The loss of these pollinators may have a direct impact on the long-term survival of the plants. Conversely, the harsh environments where some of these milk-vetches grow make them important sources of food for a variety of species.

We welcome you to come along with us on a virtual cross-country drive from New Hampshire to California and places in between to learn more about some of our special milk-vetch species and their habitats.

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a flooded field surrounded by dry grass

A wetland unit that previously had been dry for almost 10-years now, is flooded from using the new pipeline. Credit: USFWS

Water in the Desert – Project to improve water delivery, wetland habitat work recently completed

In an attempt to modernize the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge’s water delivery infrastructure, and combat reduced water inflow, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently completed work on a Southern Nevada Public Land Management Act funded project. Refuge staff submitted the proposal, and it was awarded funding in 2017. Work was just recently completed in 2020.

The goals of the project were to reduce water loss, improve timing of water delivery and allow independent water management for each of the Pahranagat National Wildlife Refuge wetland units. These goals were achieved by the installation of a three-mile underground pipeline and four lateral water delivery lines. Water conservation practices in an arid environment is a major focus in Pahranagat.

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a bald eagle flying with a bird in its claws

In addition to human disturbance, there are other threats to seabirds. Seen here, a bald eagle carries away a common murre in its talons. Bald eagles are a consistent predator of murres up in Oregon, but per Leisyka Parrott, interpretive specialist for the Bureau of Land Management's Arcata office, it is a new development in Trinidad, California. The most common non-human threat is ravens stealing eggs and harassing the colonies. Credit: Russ Namitz/BLM

Save future generations of seabirds - Seabird Protection Network North Coast Chapter working to protect and restore seabird populations in northern California through local volunteer assistance

The North Coast Chapter of the Seabird Protection Network continues to make a difference in in the future of seabirds. Volunteers are all set this spring and summer in Trinidad, California, to assist with Community Science which includes collecting scientific data that identifies current or potential disturbances to nesting seabirds, including cormorants, murres and gulls.

Using U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service funding secured from the Natural Resources Damage Assessment process from two oil spills in Humboldt Bay in 1997 and 1999, the chapter was established in 2016 and this breeding season (April-August) will be the chapters fifth year of monitoring human disturbances such as recreation in areas around seabird nesting habitat.

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