Conservation Corner: Endangered Grass Making a Comeback

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In May, biologists from the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office visited the Sylvan Preserve in Sacramento to survey for Sacramento Orcutt grass that had been introduced to some vernal pools on the property. As California enters its third straight year of drought, many vernal pools have been drying across the state impacting populations of species that consider these seasonal freshwater pools home.  

“The Sylvan Preserve was identified as a great location to expand the existing population of this endangered plant due to health of the vernal pool system on the property,” said Nora Papian, senior biologist in the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office’s Conservation Planning Division. 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provided a grant to support the seeding effort on the preserve in 2017.  Carol Witham, a local biologist and Central Valley vernal pool expert, closely monitored the seeding effort and reported back to the Sacramento FWO on the progress. While early results of the effort were positive, California plunged into two years of severe drought with late-season rains. During 2020 and 2021, few to no Orcutt grass plants were detected during surveys of pools where the grass was introduced or occurred naturally. However, even though California is still in a drought, the 2022 survey discovered 1,132 plants in seven vernal pools. 

“We are very happy to see these results. The Sacramento Orcutt grass continues to defy the odds and persist despite challenging environmental conditions. We’re grateful for partners like Carol who are champions for California’s vernal pools,” said Papian. 

The Sacramento FWO is in the process of developing the 5-year review for the species and expects to publish it in the next year. 

Story Tags

Climate change
Endangered and/or Threatened species
Habitat restoration