River Garden Farms and its efforts here on the farm to benefit wildlife are featured in an article in Audobon California’s Summer/Fall print issue of “News from Audubon California” newsletter.  It is reproduced below with kind permission of its author.  This is a variation of an article they posted on their blog in July, 2017 which we posted here.

Article and header photo by Matthew Danielczyk, Audubon Restoration Project Manager.

Landowner partnerships protect birds

To increase the scope and scale of bird-friendly practices on farms, wetlands and other managed lands in the Central Valley, Audubon California’s Working Lands Program cultivates relationships with landowners, advocates for the statewide policies that secure water and habitat for birds and engages our grassroots network in their communities.

Our work provides protection for focal species like the Long-billed Curlew, Tricolored Blackbird and Swainson’s Hawk. With less than 10% of historic habitat remaining in California’s Central Valley, farms and ranches can provide important surrogate habitat. Here is one example of how Audubon and partners are working to make that happen.

One thing leads to another

Several years ago, Working Lands project manager Khara Strum began talking to Farm Manager Roger Cornwell of River Garden Farms (RGF), a 15,000-acre family-owned farm in Yolo County, about timing how and when water is used in rice farming to provide more habitat for migratory birds. This was the beginning of a partnership that blossomed into a demonstration of how farms can innovate and advance environmental stewardship.

Implementing a conservation vision

Audubon and RGF see the farm as a place where new farm management practices to benefit birds and other wildlife or natural resources can be tested, implemented and demonstrated to other interested land managers. This includes advancing a broad conservation approach – from installing solar energy that helps meet energy needs and to using drip irrigation to improve water efficiency.

For wildlife, RGF works with Audubon and partners like the Nature Conservancy, Cal Trout, Ducks Unlimited and more on a variety of conservation efforts including:

  • Managing water depths and timing on their rice fields to benefit shorebirds. This helps the 57% of shorebird populations in the Pacific Flyway that are either declining or have unknown population trends.
  • Bringing back riverside habitat by using Audubon-designed habitat plantings for birds and planting native oaks, sycamores, cottonwoods, and more. These create corridors along field and canal edges, simultaneously improving water quality and providing important habitat for wildlife and insects. This benefits species including the Loggerhead Shrike and Swainson’s Hawk. You can find out what native plants would help birds on your property at audubon.org/plantsforbirds.
  • Finding innovative ways to mimic the historic floodplain by flooding fields after the growing season, creating important bird habitat, but also growing fish food in the water and releasing that water back into the river, hoping to reverse in the decline of fish species listed as threatened and endangered.
  • Protecting eggs found in field during harvest by collecting them and raising ducklings for release back into the wild.

Where it goes next

Audubon works with farmers across California to design restoration projects, test and implement crop management practices, and create productive farms that support migratory and resident birds along with other wildlife and fish. Working with Roger and farmers like him, Audubon is using applied science, outreach and education, demonstration projects, and policy efforts to advance that shared vision.

For more from Audobon, check out http://ca.audubon.org