U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Sacramento Fish & Wildlife OfficeServing the people, conserving the fish, wildlife, and plants of California

A Unit Of The Pacific Southwest Region

Site Visit Insights from Stephanie Jentsch and Nora Papian

July 1, 2019

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Photo of scene of Markham Ravine
For 100 years, Markham Ravine served as cattle pasture, but it is now being restored to support habitat for endangered species. Photo credit: Nora Papian, USFWS.
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Photo of large culvert
Large culverts (or pipes) are used to connect the stream to the restoration area. Photo credit: Nora Papian, USFWS.
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Photo of area where water has pooled
Straw is used to protect the soil in the areas that will serve as upland vegetation. The areas where water has pooled are the vernal pools, where several species will be transferred. Nora Papian, USFWS.

Site visits are critical to helping Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO) biologists learn more about species and their habitats. The trips often take them into areas most people do not have a chance to explore, including public and privately-owned restricted sites, as well as some remote and hard-to-reach areas. “Site visit Insights” provides a behind-the-scenes perspective of wildlife biology, featuring photographs and interesting discoveries and happenings SFWO biologists experience in the field.

Wildlife Biologists:
Stephanie Jentsch and Nora Papian

Site visit location: Markham Ravine, Placer County, California

What was the purpose of the site visit?
The purpose of our Markham Ravine site visit was to review the restoration efforts and comment on the planned activities and monitoring. The land had been reshaped using bulldozers to create depressions and areas of higher elevation. The depressions are intended to collect water during the rainy season. The depressions must be deep enough for water to pool until late spring and early summer during years with enough rainfall. Shallow channels within the higher elevation grasslands connect the depressions and pools. This mosaic of pools within grasslands is called vernal pool complex habitat and it supports many plant and animal species.

Markham Ravine is approximately 300 acres. Before it was restored, it was an irrigated cattle pasture for nearly 100 years. Originally, the site included vernal pool complex habitat and other wetland habitats. The restored vernal pool complex at Markham Ravine will support tricolored blackbird, federally listed vernal pool fairy shrimp and vernal pool tadpole shrimp, and state of California listed Swainson’s hawk.

Where did you go?
Markham Ravine is a restoration site in Placer County, California. Although it will not be open to the public, it will provide important habitat for listed species in the county. The site will ultimately compensate for (or offset) housing and infrastructure development in Placer County.

What partners were you working with and what is the nature of SFWO’s partnership with them?
Representatives from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Placer County and Westervelt Ecological Services joined us on the site visit. We are working to ensure that the restoration efforts are successful and create suitable habitat for the listed species.

What did you learn from this site visit that you didn’t know before?
The amount of engineering required to restore vernal pool complex habitat is unbelievable. The restoration team reviewed aerial photographs and collected soil samples to inform how to shape the soil to create the depressions, channels and grassland areas. There is also a stream on the northern edge of the restoration area that delivers water to agriculture in Sutter County. The restoration of Markham Ravine will not affect the water delivery to the agricultural areas during the summer, but it will provide some flood control during the winter. To avoid disrupting water delivery, culverts (large pipes used to transport water underground) were installed to connect the stream and restoration area.

What surprises did you encounter during the site visit?
The first part of restoration finished in early fall 2018, and a few storms had just passed through before we visited. Even with the small amount of rain, puddles had formed in the depressions and some plants were sprouting. We also saw many birds using the site and adjacent areas including a loggerhead shrike, which is a state of California Species of Special Concern and a fun bird to watch.

Last updated: August 2, 2019