Collaboration benefits migratory birds

Ducks Unlimited partnered with the Northern California Water Association on an editorial in Monday’s (1/4/16) Sacramento Bee highlighting the work accomplished in the Sacramento Valley this year maximizing water sources for migratory birds. Co-authored by Mark Biddlecomb of DU and David Guy of NCWA, the piece thanked all partners, from federal and state agencies to conservation organizations and land owners, for their efforts during the drought, but emphasized the need to stay vigilant.

For the past several years, water resources managers, conservation organizations, landowners and state and federal agencies have been working together to develop various habitat strategies for these lands in the face of bleak conditions. For example, water resources managers have creatively used and rescheduled water conserved during the summer irrigation season to stretch winter rice decomposition and refuge water for habitat purposes.

Conservation organizations have also worked closely with the California Rice Commission and landowners to proactively prepare post-harvest rice-lands to take advantage of natural rainfall and any other available water. Refuge managers have prepared public lands with limited resources to squeeze the best habitat out of wildlife areas.

This is particularly positive considering that during the dry summer we were all very concerned that there would be very little water available for bird habitat this fall and winter. Wildlife experts say prolonged periods where precious little habitat is available can lead to undernourished birds incapable of returning on spring migratory routes, and it increases the potential for outbreaks of contagious diseases such as avian cholera, which can decimate bird populations in a relatively short time. Importantly, the 200,000 acres of habitat are strategically spread from Glenn and Butte counties in the north, all the way down to the Yolo Bypass, just west of Sacramento and south to the Grasslands Ecological Area.

We are not out of the woods. The habitat acreage is still less than half of what would be considered optimal conditions. November rains were less than we had hoped. Winter storms now emerging may add additional water, but we are only halfway through the migration season, and additional water will be essential to sustain this habitat.

Click here to read the entire piece.