Working Lands

Partnering with landowners to protect birds

Black-necked Stilt flying by granary.

Audubon California's Working Lands Program increases the scope and scale of bird-friendly practices on farms, wetlands and other managed lands in the Central Valley.  We do this by cultivating relationships with landowners, advocating for statewide policies that secure water and habitat for birds, and engaging our grassroots network in their communities. Our work provides protection for focal species like the Long-billed Curlew, Tricolored Blackbird, and Western Grebe.

California’s Central Valley has 205,000 acres of managed wetlands, less than 5 percent of what was historically available. The region has some of the most fertile land in the nation and boasts 7 million acres of irrigated farmland. Some types of farms – particularly those with rice and other flood-irrigated field crops – provide important and complimentary habitat to managed wetlands for birds and other wildlife. This synergy of flooded farmland and managed wetlands fundamentally links the health of Pacific Flyway bird populations and California’s farms. Audubon California has worked for 15 years to build partnerships with farmers to protect, enhance, and restore bird habitat on farmland in California’s Central Valley.

The Pacific Flyway, connecting Alaska and South America, is a major migratory pathway for birds. The Central Valley is an important stopover site for birds to feed and rest. Flooded habitat provided by Central Valley farms, refuges, and other managed areas supports between 5-7 million waterfowl and 350,000 shorebirds each year- that’s over 60% of the Pacific Flyway and 20% of the nation's waterfowl population! Over the long-term, the best opportunities to ensure the long-term conservation of birds and other wildlife in the Central Valley are to protect and enhance working landscapes for birds and wildlife while also ensuring a vibrant system of managed wetlands on public and private lands.

Examples of Audubon California's private lands work includes:

  • Audubon CA partners with other non-profits, industry partners and agencies to enhance 20% of the nearly 500,000 acres of rice grown in the state for waterbirds. Most enhancement takes the form of management practices developed in cooperation with farmers and includes extending the drawdown of winter-flooding to provide habitat during migration or building islands in growing rice to provide safe nesting habitat to shorebirds. Working together we’ve enhanced over 150,000 acres using bird-friendly management practices. You can read more here: http://calrice.org/pdf/waterbirdhabitatbro_web.pdf
  • The Tricolored Blackbird is an iconic California species whose population has seen precipitous decline over the last 100 years. In an effort to protect the remaining birds, Audubon California works closely with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the dairy industry and the California Farm Bureau Federation, to save 100% of known colonies nesting on farmland that were at risk of destruction during harvest this year. 2016 marked the first time we achieved full protection of colonies at risk of destruction on farmland in the Central Valley, saving 57,000 breeding adult Tricolored Blackbirds 
  • Audubon California partnered with The Nature Conservancy to create over 3,000 acres of shorebird habitat during April and May on private wetlands in the San Joaquin Valley by prolonging flooding and delaying drawdown of these wetlands. The prolonged flooding supported ten times the number of shorebirds than surrounding wetlands drawn down on the traditional timeframe. Learn more about this project here: http://abc30.com/news/duck-clubs-helping-to-create-new-habitat-for-shorebirds/663184/

The Tricolored Blackbird in California

Grasslands Video on CVPIA with MH from Meghan Hertel on Vimeo.

Landowner Resources
Working Lands

Landowner Resources

Working lands can provide a great deal of habitat opportunities for birds and other wildlife... 

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News & Updates

Working with rice farmers to help birds in the Central Valley

Audubon California's Khara Strum ventures out to Sutter County to visit a rice farm that is flooding early to provide habitat for migratory birds. She uses the visit to talk about our work with the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the California Rice Commission to provide more habitat for these birds on farms.

Making Farmland Work for Wildlife

Photo: Elizabeth Herman

Audubon's new story series "What's a Stake" takes a look at conservation programs threatened by federal budget cuts and environmental policy rollbacks.  The series highlights Audubon California's Conservation Program Director, Samantha Arthur, and her work with dairy farmers to protect Tricolored Blackbird colonies, which is funded by a federal program proposed for elimination.  

Check out this great story here.

Learn more about our Working Lands Program and efforts to protect  theTricolored Blackbird here.

Nearly 75,000 Tricolored Blackbirds protected in 2017
Press Center

Nearly 75,000 Tricolored Blackbirds protected in 2017

— Celebrating the five year partnership between farmers and conservationists that allows Tricolored blackbirds nesting on farms sufficient time to fledge their young
Farming for birds at River Garden Farms
Audublog

Farming for birds at River Garden Farms

The Yolo County farm finds innovative ways to benefit wildlife on its property

Talking about migratory birds in the Central Valley

Audubon California's Khara Strum recently took to Capital Public radio to talk about migratory birds in the Central Valley, and particularly how they use agricultural fields as surrogate habitat. Listen to the interview here.

Audubon’s work in California’s Central Valley may open opportunities for birds at the Salton Sea
Salton Sea

Audubon’s work in California’s Central Valley may open opportunities for birds at the Salton Sea

Can Audubon California’s efforts to support birds on Central Valley farms can be translated to the Imperial Valley?

Fire again hits the Audubon Bobcat Ranch
Audublog

Fire again hits the Audubon Bobcat Ranch

Cold Fire is the third blaze to reach Audubon's woodland sanctuary in recent years.

What's up with grebes?
Working Lands

What's up with grebes?

A brief photo-filled update on Audubon California's Grebe Conservation Project

My First Drought
Audublog

My First Drought

Kate C. Brice of Altacal Audubon Society graciously shares her experience participating in Audubon's Drought Monitoring Project

Burrowing Owl and wildflowers on the Audubon Bobcat Ranch

Burrowing Owl on the Audubon Bobcat Ranch. Photo: Dash Weidhofer

Our colleague Dash Weidhofer, who manages the Audubon Bobcat Ranch outside Winters, recently found this Burrowing Owl on the property. It may be the first recorded sighting of that species on the property. He also captured some cool images of the wildflowers blooming.

Wildflowers on the Audubon Bobcat Ranch. Photo: Dash Weidhofer
Wildflowers on the Audubon Bobcat Ranch. Photo: Dash Weidhofer

How you can help, right now