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

High Country News covers Audubon California's work to monitor and mitigate drought

Yolo Audubon Society drought monitors.

High Country News interviewed Audubon California's Working Lands Director, Meghan Hertel, about the program's work to support birds in the Central Valley. Six chapters participate by volunteering their time to survey birds at wildlife refuges located in their area. You can read the piece here: http://www.hcn.org/articles/the-disappearing-wetlands-in-californias-central-valley

Sandhill Cranes at Staten Island

Yesterday our Working Lands Program toured Staten Island and watched Sandhill Cranes using fields that test different compatible agriculture practices.

Working Lands

Giving thanks to our farmer bird heroes

Over 1,000 people took the time to write a thank you note to our farmer partners.

How do we effectively communicate conservation work?
Audublog

How do we effectively communicate conservation work?

Khara Strum, Conservation Project Manager with the Working Lands Program, learns her own lesson while teaching children the impacts of climate change.

Cindy Lashbrook is a farmer bird hero

Cindy Lashbrook, River Dance Farms

This is Cindy Lashbrook, an organic farmer from Merced County. She partners with our Working Lands Program to create bird habitat on her property. Her dream is to one day have the threatened Yellow-billed Cuckoo subspecies live and breed on her land.

This Thanksgiving, send Cindy and other farmer bird heroes like her a thank you note. Click here to learn more.

Three years ago, this stretch of Highway 45 in Colusa County was a treeless, plantless, birdless, insectless Caltrans right-of-way. Thanks to the vision of the Sycamore Family Trust, Audubon California, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, Colusa County Resource Conservation District, Colusa High School, and others, this is what it looked like yesterday.

Posted by Audubon California Working Lands Program on Thursday, November 5, 2015

Bringing color to Colusa County

Three years ago, this stretch of Highway 45 in Colusa County was a treeless, plantless, birdless, insectless Caltrans right-of-way. Thanks to the vision of the Sycamore Family Trust, Audubon California, USFWS Partners for Fish and Wildlife program, Colusa County Resource Conservation District, Colusa High School, and others, this is what it looked like yesterday.

Spreading the word about bird-friendly farming
Working Lands

Spreading the word about bird-friendly farming

Last week, my hospitality was directed at hemispheric travelers of the human variety, Australian biologists. The group was visiting California to learn how to create bird habitat on rice.

Dry Sacramento Valley rice fields from the air
Audublog

Dry Sacramento Valley rice fields from the air

Lack of habitat bodes ill for migratory birds arriving this fall

How you can help, right now