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Coalition Releases Plan To Protect Bird Habitat
Birds can use flooded rice fields around the Central Valley region for wintering; here a flock of geese is shown taking off. Photo Courtesy California Rice Commission

A public-private partnership has released a 10-year plan to restore and protect bird habitat in the Central Valley that also provides significant benefits to local communities, including flood protection, increased access to recreation, and replenishment of groundwater. The Central Valley Joint Venture (CVJV) is a coalition of 19 public and private organizations that coordinates efforts to conserve Central Valley birds and their habitats for current and future generations.

The Central Valley hosts one of the largest concentrations of migratory birds in the world; more than 100 million birds representing 400 species use the Valley annually. Much of the Central Valley’s natural habitat has been converted over the years to agriculture and urban development and climate change has intensified drought events and decreased snowpack. CVJV partners have made great strides in protecting existing habitat and restoring new habitat to support bird populations in the Central Valley. Despite these efforts, many bird populations have drastically declined and many species are facing the threat of extinction, following patterns seen across North America. This new plan identifies the work needed to reverse these trends in ways that increase climate resiliency, support human communities and protect natural resources now and for future generations.

“The CVJV reaches across boundaries of land ownership to protect and restore habitat for birds,” said James Cogswell, CVJV Coordinator. “We work with everyone from farmers and duck hunters, to state and federal agencies, to non-profit conservation organizations, coordinating efforts to protect and maximize bird habitat. For example, land can be farmed for rice, then, when flooded for rice straw decomposition, it provides duck and shorebird habitat in the fall and winter. Land along rivers can be replanted with native trees and shrubs to provide climate change-resilient bird habitat while stabilizing the riverbank and storing carbon. Floodplains can be reconnected to rivers, reducing flood risk for downstream communities, recharging groundwater, and increasing access to recreational opportunities for the public.”

The CVJV’s science-based Implementation Plan sets bird population and habitat objectives to guide conservation efforts over the next decade. It identifies the number of acres of different types of habitats that must be protected or restored to support the recovery of bird populations now and for the next century. The Plan identifies realistic opportunities for landowners, agencies, cities and counties, and state policymakers to benefit birds, other wildlife, and people, even in extreme drought years like this one.

“The Central Valley is a highly modified landscape, but birds don’t necessarily need pristine habitat to thrive,” explained Khara Strum, CVJV board member and Conservation Project Manager at Audubon California. “Shorebirds, ducks and other waterbirds rely on flooded agricultural fields in addition to natural areas. During drought, waterbirds are left high and dry without access to flooded lands. CVJV partners work together to create essential flooded habitat for these birds. Based on a decade of research, we know when and where to put the water to maximize benefits for a variety of species.”

Many CVJV projects create enhanced recreation and economic opportunities related to habitat protection and nature-based tourism. And many projects convey multiple benefits, such as improving water quality, reducing flood risk, creating habitat that will endure through a changing climate, and otherwise enhancing water management in the Valley.

The CVJV has a strong record of habitat conservation and of effectively leveraging outside funding sources. CVJV accomplishments since the previous Implementation Plan, finalized in 2006, include:

• Protecting 26,000 acres, restoring 42,000 acres, and enhancing 250,000 acres of wetland habitat through the North American Wetlands Conservation Act grant program.

• Planting nearly 2 million trees and shrubs and restoring 8,000 acres of land along rivers and streams, increasing total riverside bird habitat in the Central Valley by 20 percent.

• Protecting populations of several at-risk bird species, including least Bell’s vireo (a songbird previously thought to be extinct in the Valley), sandhill crane, and tricolored blackbird.

• Flooding post-harvest agricultural lands and private wetlands in the Sacramento, Delta, San Joaquin and Tulare regions in a targeted way to provide critical habitat for shorebirds, ducks and other waterbirds during this year’s extreme drought.

Several CVJV partners are collaborating on the 2021-22 Drought Relief Waterbird Program to create this habitat, drawing upon $10M in funding from the California Department of Water Resources and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The Central Valley Joint Venture is a public-private partnership working to conserve Central Valley birds and their habitat for current and future generations.

Learn more about the CVJV and its member organizations at