Featured Stories

December 16, 2020
Dredging up the past at Antioch Dunes

Caption: Water hyacinth was brought to California for its decorative value. Ian Pfingsten/U.S. Geological Survey

There may be fewer than 50 Lange’s metalmark
butterflies remaining today, down from
an estimated 25,000 between 50 and 100
years ago. The butterfly is only found at
Antioch Dunes National Wildlife Refuge.
Credit: Ken-Ichi Ueda/USFWS

Over thousands of years, the shifting sands of time built dunes that reached 120 feet high and stretched for 2 miles along the San Joaquin River, about 35 miles east of San Francisco. Isolated from similar habitats, the Antioch Dunes slowly developed species found nowhere else in the world. The gradual shifting of sand, however, was replaced by a rapid effort to turn it into bricks in 1906, after a devastating earthquake and fires demolished buildings in San Francisco. As industry depleted the sand over the next 70 years, the dunes’ unique species struggled to survive on dunes that eventually topped out at 50 feet.

November 18, 2020
Restoring Dry Creek

Caption: Water hyacinth was brought to California for its decorative value. Ian Pfingsten/U.S. Geological Survey

Central Valley steelhead, seen here at Coleman
National Fish Hatchery in Anderson, California,
has been federally listed as a threatened
species since 1988.
Credit: Steve Martarano/USFWS

In 1943 the Army completed a dam on Camp Beale so its soldiers could fish, swim and jump off the dam's driving platform. Nearly 80 years later, the Air Force is giving Dry Creek back to the original tenants: its fish.

November 12, 2020
Restoration brings salmon, people back to Clear Creek

Caption: Water hyacinth was brought to California for its decorative value. Ian Pfingsten/U.S. Geological Survey

A male Chinook salmon, with red coloration,
strikes another male Chinook on Clear Creek
in Redding, California, during spawning
season in October. Credit: Brandon Honig/USFWS

Clear Creek has been transformed multiple times in the past two centuries, but the transformation of the past few decades was designed to last. Ravaged first by gold-seekers and then by gravel-miners, the Sacramento River tributary is today a haven for fish and people alike.

July 16, 2020
Water hyacinth acts like ‘plastic wrap’ on the Delta

Caption: Water hyacinth was brought to California for its decorative value. Ian Pfingsten/U.S. Geological Survey

Water hyacinth was brought to California
for its decorative value, but rampant growth
has threatened fish habitats, obstructed boat
traffic and blocked agricultural and municipal
water intakes.
Ian Pfingsten/U.S. Geological Survey

Looking at the water hyacinth’s lovely lavender flowers and lush green leaves, it’s easy to see why it was brought here from South America. But too much of a good thing can cause trouble, and few things turn into “too much” as quickly as water hyacinths (Eichhornia crassipes).

August 7, 2018
Yolo Bypass restoration benefits all Californians

Caption: The 3.2-mile Yolo Causeway crosses the Yolo Bypass floodplain and connects Davis with West Sacramento. Steve Martarano/USFWS

The 3.2-mile Yolo Causeway crosses the Yolo
Bypass floodplain and connects Davis with
West Sacramento.
Steve Martarano/USFWS

There is lot of activity in the Yolo Bypass Basin these days. When that means critical habitat restoration is occurring in one of the state’s most important systems, all of California benefits.

June 14, 2018
'River Jedi'

Biologists prepare for a night on the water. Steve Martarano/USFWS

Biologists prepare for a night on the water.
Steve Martarano/USFWS

Red Bluff Fish and Wildlife Office biologists break new ground in Sacramento River juvenile green sturgeon migration research.

April 19, 2018
Reaching the 'coldest water'

Jeff Freund works with winter-run Chinook salmon at the Coleman National Fish

Deer Creek supports the Central Valley’s
second-largest naturally reproducing
population of spring-run Chinook salmon.
Steve Martarano/USFWS

Two decades in the making, the Lower Deer Creek fish passage project is finally complete.

March 28, 2018
After long absence, endangered winter-run Chinook salmon return to restored Battle Creek

Jeff Freund works with winter-run Chinook salmon at the Coleman National Fish

Jeff Freund works with winter-run Chinook
salmon at the Coleman National Fish Hatchery.
Steve Martarano/USFWS

About 29,000 salmon from the Livingston Stone National Fish Hatchery were released into the North Fork of Battle Creek, where they once thrived.

February 23, 2018
Green sturgeon confirmed in Stanislaus River for first time

Collecting salmon eggs, Nimbus Hatchery, Steve Martarano USFWS

The first green sturgeon verified in the
Stanislaus River. Kyle Horvath/Cramer Fish Sciences

The fish’s detection highlights the benefits of longtime research and restoration efforts.

November 2, 2017
Partnership with Nimbus Hatchery helps correct wayward 2017 fall-run Chinook salmon
By Steve Martarano

Collecting salmon eggs, Nimbus Hatchery, Steve Martarano USFWS

Service biologist Marc Provencher pours
salmon eggs into a waiting bucket.
Steve Martarano USFWS

About 8 million of the 12 million Chinook salmon that were released in 2014 strayed off course when they returned to freshwater to spawn. Anticipating a similar event this year, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife's Nimbus Hatchery, located near Sacramento on the American River, opened its fish ladder early on Oct. 9 to accommodate the arrival of those straying fish.

Fish ID workshop, Steve Martarano USFWS

November 1, 2017
'Name that fish': Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office hosts vital multi-agency Delta fish ID workshop
Can you tell the difference between a Delta Smelt and a Wakasagi?
By Steve Martarano

Fish identification workshops have been a part of the Lodi office's staff training curriculum for many years, but on a recent Friday in early October, the popular workshop for the first time was expanded and offered to all state, federal and other interested scientists whose job it is to correctly identify Bay-Delta fish species.

August 8, 2017
Pescadero community restores historic floodplain
By Steve Martarano
Bay-Delta Fish & Wildlife Office

Butano Creek, Steve Martarano USFWS

Pescadero community restores historic floodplain
Photo: Steve Martarano/USFWS

The the San Mateo Resource Conservatiom District partnered with the landowner – Peninsula Open Space Trust – and almost a dozen other agencies, including the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, as well as local volunteers to repair Butano Creek last fall.




July 5, 2017
Featured Story
Work on Yuba River's Hammon Bar earns high honors
By Steve Martarano
Bay-Delta Fish & Wildlife Office

Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement Project. Steve Martarano, USFWS

Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement Project
Photo: Steve Martarano/USFWS

The Hammon Bar Riparian Enhancement Project, completed last fall, was designed to evaluate and demonstrate the benefits of planting large cuttings of cottonwood and willow trees in the floodplain of the lower Yuba River. The main goal was to create new biologically diverse riparian vegetation to enhance fish habitat through additional shading, cover, and food supply.

April 18, 2017
Wanted: More smelt data
Enhanced Delta Smelt Monitoring Program helps fill the void

Delta smelt data, Steve Martarano USFWS

Technician Brynn Pearles records data from daily
tows on the Delta in March 2017.
Credit: Steve Martarano, USFWS

Three years ago, the Service, with the cooperation of other state and federal water agencies, began an early warning monitoring program which provided the Service, and state and federal water managers valuable near real-time information about the location of Delta smelt. Those surveys were a breakthrough at the time, and meant to give water project managers additional time to adapt pumping operations should the imperiled fish move closer to water diversions in the southern Delta.

March 17, 2017
Into the darkness: Imperiled spring-run Chinook salmon released into upper San Joaquin River

Spring-run Chinook salmon released into upper San Joaquin River, Steve Martarano USFWS

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fisheries biologists and
partners get preparations underway at the Eastside Bypass
on the San Joaquin River Credit: Steve Martarano, USFWS

When almost 90,000 3-inch spring-run Chinook salmon shot into the darkness of the Eastside Bypass of the San Joaquin River the night of March 6, they didn't get there alone. It took a strong, collaborative effort by numerous state, federal, university and private entities, working for months under the umbrella of the San Joaquin River Restoration Program (SJRRP) to ensure that the imperiled salmon species continued to thrive for future generations.

March 17, 2017
Steelhead, Chinook salmon spawning at Coleman National Fish Hatchery in Northern Calif

Collecting eggs at Coleman, USFWS

Collecting eggs at Coleman National Fish Hatchery
Credit: U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Video of Steelhead and Chinook Spawning at the Coleman Fish Hatchery

January 18, 2017
Rain or Shine, Service Biologists Work Through Some Tough Weather Conditions

Delta smelt survey, Steve Martarano, USFWS

Lodi FWO delta smelt surveying
Steve Martarano, USFWS

The rains came, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service got to work. Whether it was to release more than a half-million steelhead, making sure rotary screw collection traps on the upper Sacramento River were preserved, or monitoring for Delta smelt, a little inclement weather wasn't stopping the Service from crucial daily activities.

The very welcome wet opening to 2017 didn't slow down the Coleman National Fish Hatchery's scheduled week-long efforts to release 600,000 year-old steelhead into a Sacramento River location near Red Bluff.

Meanwhile, the boat crews out of the Lodi Fish and Wildlife Office also continued their work in the rain.

November 18, 2016
A Sacramento Biologist's Love of the Delta Became Her Life's Calling

Heather Swinney, Photo: Steve Martarano, USFWS

Heather Swinney
Steve Martarano, USFWS

Heather Swinney still remembers when it clicked that the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta she had enjoyed her entire life might become a career. It was during high school, and she was out on one of her adventures on the estuary she loved when it resonated to her that combining passion for science and water could be her life's calling. Heather has been the go-to Delta expert for the San Francisco Bay Delta Fish and Wildlife Office, located in downtown Sacramento, since 2009 when it first opened. With over a decade of experience along with an outgoing personality, she quickly became a senior biologist and key resource to her colleagues on the issues and geography of what has always been her backyard. Story

November 15, 2016
Delta Smelt Markings Study One of Many USFWS Highlights at 2016 Bay Delta Science Conference

Delta smelt markings

Delta Smelt Markings poster, USFWS

The feasibility of using natural external marks such as spots and scars to better study cultured Delta Smelt was the basis of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Gonzalo Castillo's presentation at the 2016 Bay Delta Science Conference. See poster PDF.

Castillo's presentation, "Identification of Individual Cultured Delta Smelt Using Visual and Automated Analysis of Natural Marks," is one of several featuring USFWS scientists.

October 21, 2016
Pinole Creek Fish Ladder

Pinole Creek, Steve Martarano USFWS

Pinole Creek
Steve Martarano, USFWS

Pinole Creek Fish Passage Project May Be Easy To Miss, But Its Importance Isn't A wide range of planners worked through many obstacles to restore access to the upper reaches of Pinole Creek to assist the current population of threatened Central California Coast Steelhead. The project, the biggest one ever undertaken by the Contra Costa Resource Conservation District (CCRCD), is designed to provide flow through the south culvert box and improve access to nearly seven miles of documented quality steelhead spawning and rearing habitat on the main stem of Pinole Creek.

October 17, 2016
Artist's 'Big Foot' Project Highlights Human Impact on California's Species in Peril

BeverlyMayeriBigFootToes, Steve Martarano USFWS

Beverly Mayeri
Steve Martarano, USFWS

Beverly Mayeri's clay pieces were once described in a 2003 New York Times review as evoking "something rare in contemporary art – a richly complicated human presence." Now, 13 years later, the Mill Valley-based sculptor is still showing how that human presence is affecting us. California's endangered wildlife is the inspiration behind Mayeri's "The Big Foot," a 68-inch tall photo collage of vulnerable species in California pasted onto a paper mache foot. Story

August 18, 2016
Green Sturgeon Numbers on the Rise? Time Will Tell...

Green sturgeon, NOAA

Green Sturgeon
NOAA Fisheries

While high-profile Delta species such as Delta smelt and winter-run Chinook salmon are at record lows and facing possible extinction, that doesn't seem to be the case with Sacramento River green sturgeon – listed as threatened by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) under the Endangered Species Act in 2006. Story

July 28, 2016
Learning How to Manage White Sturgeon in California's San Joaquin River

White Sturgeon, Laura Heironimus, USFWS

White Sturgeon
Laura Heironimus/USFWS

In the past, little was known about how and when white sturgeon used the San Joaquin River in California. Most San Joaquin River basin fish sampling efforts focus on salmon and those efforts have never captured a sturgeon, thus contributing to the belief that sturgeon rarely, if ever, visit there. Additionally, before 2007, anglers didn't have an easy way to report sturgeon catches. Since 2011, several steps have been taken that has helped the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP) better understand the population. Story

June 23, 2016
Mathematician Uses Big Data to Save Tiny Smelt

For more than 30 years, Ken Newman has used his statistical methods to help endangered fish and wildlife species in some of the most complex ecosystems across the U.S. and Scotland. Yet, his work with the Delta smelt may be his most daunting task. He is working in California's Bay-Delta to determine population numbers and trends, and ultimately help reverse the decline of a struggling, much-maligned Delta smelt. Story

April 7, 2016
Service Fish Hatcheries Helping Endangered California Salmon in Innovative Ways

Coleman NFH tanker truck

Coleman NFH Tanker
Steve Martarano, USFWS

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's Coleman hatchery complex is assisting virtually every run of one of California's most prized resources – Chinook salmon. "It's safe to say there would be a lot less salmon out there than there is now without our efforts," said John Rueth, assistant hatchery manager at the Livingston Stone Hatchery, which is one of two Service hatcheries within the Coleman National Fish Hatchery Complex. Story