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

Making sure that water under the ground helps birds above the ground
Working Lands

Making sure that water under the ground helps birds above the ground

"It’s clear that the ramifications of our decisions on groundwater are going to stretch decades into the future, and what we do now will really matter.”

What about alfalfa?
Working Lands

What about alfalfa?

Having evangelized about the habitat benefits of rice farms, Audubon California's Khara Strum is taking on a new crop.

Alfalfa is for the Birds!
Working Lands

Alfalfa is for the Birds!

Audubon California is working hard to understand how this crop provides habitat for birds.

Black terns and rice fields

What birds are using rice fields over the summer? Meghan Hertel, our Director of Land and Water Conservation shares a bit about one of her favorites, the Black tern, in this video from the California Rice Commission.

Wildfire and California Rangelands
Working Lands

Wildfire and California Rangelands

Bobcat Ranch is an Audubon property in Yolo County, just outside of Winters. Each summer for the last few years, the ranch has been in the path of fires: the Cold Fire, Monticello Fire, and most recently the County Fire. We had a few questions for our hard-working ranch manger.

U.S. Senate passes 2018 Farm Bill with commitment to conservation

In a statement yesterday, The National Audubon Society praised the commitment to conservation in the 2018 Senate Farm Bill. The bill now moves to conference commitee where it will be reconciled with the House Farm Bill passed last week.  Audubon urges robust conservation in the final bill. 

“The Senate Farm Bill provides important tools to collaborate with producers on working landscapes to address bird habitat, water, and soil health needs,” said David O’Neill, Chief Conservation Officer for National Audubon Society. The National Audubon Society partners with private land managers on bird-friendly conservation strategies as part of the Working Lands Program.

The bill provides funding for the Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) to bring together farm and conservation groups for mutually benedical collaborations, such as Audubon California's work to protect the Tricolored Blackbird which is now listed as a Threatened under the California Endangered Species Act.

Read Audubon's full statement here and learn more about why the Senate's 2018 Farm Bill is good for birds.

For more on the RCPP and Tricolored Blackbirds in California check out this story from earlier this year. 

Bobcat Ranch and Audubon's Conservation Ranching program

Audubon California's Bobcat Ranch is a participant in Audubon's Conservation Ranching program. Learn more about that program here.

The Farm Bill is super important for birds

It's hard to imagine any piece of federal legislation more complex -- or more wonky -- than the Farm Bill. But as this great Audubon story suggests, there's a lot in the Farm Bill for birds. Here in California, Farm Bill helps provide habitat for birds on Central Valley farms and protect rare Tricolored Blackbirds, but that's just the beginning.

High School students learn how conservation and agriculture work together
Working Lands

High School students learn how conservation and agriculture work together

Through ongoing partnerships Audubon California works with farmers and students to connect habitat and increase conservation on working lands

Partnerships protect over 160,000 acres of wetland
Working Lands

Partnerships protect over 160,000 acres of wetland

Our partnerships with local chapters and the Grasslands Water District ensure the protection of contiguous wetland habitat

How you can help, right now