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.

Water and Wetlands
Water

Water

Birds and wetlands in the Central Valley must receive the water they need.

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Conservation Ranching
Conservation Ranching

Conservation Ranching

How we empower ranchers and consumers to protect grassland birds.

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Healthy Soils
Working Lands

Healthy Soils

Making Climate Solutions on Working Lands Bird-Friendly

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News & Updates

The Annual Dilemma
Working Lands

The Annual Dilemma

If annual, non-native, and invasive grasses have a strategy for success, it is certainly, “the early bird gets the worm.” Our response focuses on prescribed burns and timed grazing to benefit grassland birds.

A Way Forward for California's Working Lands
Working Lands

A Way Forward for California's Working Lands

Conservation ranching techniques create habitat and sequester carbon. Under a new bill, the state would pay ranchers to implement them.

Innovative Bill Would Promote Regenerative Ranching in California
Press Center

Innovative Bill Would Promote Regenerative Ranching in California

— Audubon California-Sponsored bill encourages ranching practices that restore grasslands and sequester carbon.
The Case for Wetlands in the Central Valley
Water

The Case for Wetlands in the Central Valley

Vital protections are needed for wetlands that depend on groundwater under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

New Study: Wetlands Restoration Can Improve Water Quality in Central Valley
Water

New Study Highlights Opportunity for Wetlands Restoration to Improve Water Quality in the Central Valley

Vibrant ecosystems can absorb carbon dioxide helping mitigate climate change and nitrogen cleaning the run-off from human use of the land for agriculture or development.

Governor Newsom Issues Groundbreaking 30 x 30 Executive Order
Press Center

Governor Newsom Issues Groundbreaking 30 x 30 Executive Order

— California is first in nation to commit to protecting 30% of our lands and waters by 2030.
177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!
Working Lands

177,000 Tricolored Blackbirds Saved in 2020!

In the sixth year of the Audubon Summer Conservation Program, we worked closely with dairy producers to protect 100% of the known 15 Tricolored Blackbird colonies on agricultural fields across four counties.

Prescribed Burn Protects Bobcat Ranch from LNU Lightening Fires
Audublog

Prescribed Burn Protects Bobcat Ranch from LNU Lightening Fires

The LNU Lightening Fires reached Bobcat Ranch, a 6,800 acre blue oak conservation property and certified Audubon Conservation Ranch. Thanks to the prevention work and prescribed fires by CAL FIRE and our staff, we successfully protected Bobcat Ranch’s infrastructure and surrounding developments.

How Bowles Farming Company Supports People and Birds - Even During a Pandemic
Working Lands

How Bowles Farming Company Supports People and Birds - Even During a Pandemic

Interview with Cannon Michael, a sixth generation San Joaquin Valley farmer.

Healthy Soils
Working Lands

Healthy Soils

Making Climate Solutions on Working Lands Bird-Friendly

How you can help, right now