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.

How conservation ranching is saving grassland birds
Audublog

How conservation ranching is saving grassland birds

Regenerative grazing increases plant diversity and productivity with benefits for bees, butterflies and birds.

Read more

What is Audubon California Doing about Climate Change?
Audublog

What is Audubon California Doing about Climate Change?

Summary of Audubon California’s programs that contribute to abating the impacts of climate change or increasing the climate resiliency of our priority California habitats and birds.

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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

Take it personally: Climate change is a serious threat to birds and your community. Enter your location to see which impacts from climate change are predicted for your area, and how birds near you will be affected through Audubon's Climate Visualizer.

As the climate changes, so will the places birds need.

Audubon scientists took advantage of 140 million observations, recorded by birders and scientists, to describe where 604 North American bird species live today—an area known as their “range.” They then used the latest climate models to project how each species’s range will shift as climate change and other human impacts advance across the continent.

The results are clear: Birds will be forced to relocate to find favorable homes. And they may not survive.

See which of your local birds are most vulnerable under different warming scenarios.

How conservation ranching is saving grassland birds
Audublog

How conservation ranching is saving grassland birds

Regenerative grazing increases plant diversity and productivity with benefits for bees, butterflies and birds.

Gov. Newsom meets with environmental leaders to discuss priorities including the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (AB454), Salton Sea and investments in natural Working Lands.

A new approach for protecting grassland birds
Working Lands

A new approach for protecting grassland birds

Program will help grassland birds through cooperative efforts with ranchers.

Farmers and landowners learn about creating habitat and improving soil health
Working Lands

Farmers and landowners learn about creating habitat and improving soil health

Event explores ways to support bird habitat on farms.

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.

How you can help, right now