Wildlife organizations send letter to State Water Board: Don’t leave the refuges out to dry

letter mailboxThe Nature Conservancy, the Trust for Public Land, Audubon, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and the California Waterfowl Association have send a letter to Felicia Marcus outlining concerns over potential impacts of this extreme drought on refuges and Central Valley wetlands, and recommending actions that need to be taken to protect waterfowl and migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway.

This year, Central Valley refuges anticipate receiving little more than one-quarter of their legally-mandated supplies, and the post-harvest flooding of wildlife-friendly farmland – a vital component of the flyway habitat mosaic – could decline severely this year due to potential water supply curtailments, the letter says.  This loss of flooded agricultural habitat places overwhelming pressure on the private and public refuges, making them less able to provide food and nesting habitat for the millions of birds and other species, they say, and collectively, available habitat may be reduced to levels not seen since the 1980s. The cumulative impacts of habitat loss at both refuges and agricultural lands is an unprecedented challenge to birds and wetland-dependent wildlife, and it could take many years for populations to recover, they say.

Public refuges, private wetlands, and some agricultural land piece together just one-tenth of the four million acres that once supported wildlife before human development, and millions of migrating birds depend on these remaining wetlands to rest and feed between long flights of hundreds, even thousands of miles, the letter says.  These relatively few remaining wetland areas are not incidental; their existence depends on dedicated water supplies and active management, the groups point out.

“Unquestionably, our farms and communities are suffering during this drought. So, too, are migratory birds, resident waterfowl, and other wetland wildlife. These species have no insurance policy to recover from the significant loss of habitat they could suffer this year if no action is taken. To protect our public investments and international commitments, we must provide a backstop to so much habitat loss in the Central Valley by prioritizing and augmenting water supplies to the remaining 5 percent of California wetlands.”

Don’t be too hasty with your decision, the groups say.  Take action only after directly engaging with agencies and organizations, considering all the information provided as well as the creative solutions proposed by water users.

“We urge the Board to fully consider the cumulative effects that comprehensive “dewatering” of the Flyway may cause.”

Read the letter here:  SWRCB-Drought-and-Flyway-Letter

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