Chinook Salmon, © Dave Bickford

Reaching out for wildlife in California

The Defenders team in California is often on the ground in the local communities working on hands-on projects that engage community members in conservation activities. This is a great way to show people how the policies we strive to implement on the legal level are directly connected to real wildlife issues. Below, two partners of Defenders write about their experiences helping out with some of our popular grassroots projects in California.

In 2008, Defender Jeremy Terhune helped found the Friends of the Lower Calaveras River (FLCR) project. Defenders now supports Jeremy in his work to build support for wildlands, wildlife and river conservation in the Central Valley as an organizer based in Stockton, CA. Jeremy focuses on building constituency support for the San Joaquin River Restoration Project and participating in the San Joaquin River Partnership, as well as continuing his work to protect the Lower Calaveras River and educating under-served communities and children in the planning, design and use of river restoration projects in the San Joaquin Valley.

The Calaveras River, © Friends of the Lower Calaveras River

The Calaveras River near Sacramento, CA. (© Friends of the Lower Calaveras River)

The Lower Calaveras is rainfed, and is one of the most dramatically altered rivers in California. The river provides critical habitat to threatened fish and wildlife, including Fall Run Chinook Salmon and steelhead. Kristine Williams is on the FLCR steering committee, and helps Jeremy coordinate the Riverwalk program, which she describes here.

Donnie Ratcliff, a Fish and Wildlife Services fisheries biologist is another friend to Defenders. He worked with Jeremy and the FLCR last month to coordinate a Calaveras River education and appreciation day. The groups reached out to students in the area to teach them just how important their local watershed is to their community and to wildlife and habitat.

Come take a walk with us

By Kristine Williams, Friends of the Lower Calaveras River

As 2013 draws to a close we here at Friends of the Lower Calaveras River are reflecting on our work over the past year. 2013 saw the birth of our first year of structured walks and a community that rose to the occasion to learn about and spread awareness of a little-known river running right through Stockton.

Our walks are casual, revolving around a different theme each month. Be it birds, how our city gets its water, seasonal changes in the river or just sitting on the bank discussing the progress of native grasses plantings we’re sure to show walkers just how versatile and important this natural resource is to our city.

Our FLCR members are involved in all types of urban niches and we work hard to organize joint events with other local organizations. In March we brought out our helmets and took a ride with the San Joaquin Bicycle Coalition along the Calaveras River’s little known bike and pedestrian path. August saw our members partnering with Stockton East Water District to learn how and where our local water comes from. These partnerships broaden our perspectives and expand the dialog we have about what the Calaveras River means to our community. It’s more than just water running through town, the Calaveras River is a place to play, relax, wonder and enjoy.

As citizens interested in our natural resources we like to see the Calaveras River in all its different habitats – from the riparian stretches below New Hogan Dam to small channelized portions in the unincorporated portions of San Joaquin County. We hold our walks all over, ensuring that as many people as possible have the opportunity to walk along and learn about not only the small river struggling to survive in our ever-changing urban landscape, but also about one another and how, as a community, we are able to make an impact and preserve those resources that are valuable to us.

Riverwalk, © Jacob Osborne/USFWS

Dr. Stacy Sherman from University of the Pacific (center) discusses fish habitat and watershed functions with students at the Calaveras River Education and Appreciation Day.

Calaveras River Education and Appreciation Day allows students to learn about and explore their local river

By Donnie Ratcliff, Stockton FWO

The fourth annual Calaveras River Education and Appreciation Day was held on November 2nd, 2013. The Service’s Anadromous Fish Restoration Program (AFRP), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), and members of the Friends of the Lower Calaveras River (FLCR) worked collaboratively to present this exciting event. Funding for the event came through a grant from the Service’s Connecting People with Nature program. USACE provided use of the Monte Vista and Observation Point Recreation Areas, perfect venues for the event situated near New Hogan Dam.

Approximately 35 students from A.A. Stagg School in Stockton attended the event.  Additionally, more than 10 local experts in a wide array of natural resource disciplines were able to interact with the students in a variety of educational activities. The Service and FLCR worked with Stagg biology teacher Marcus Sherman to actively recruit interested students that live near the lower reaches of the Calaveras River in Stockton.

Students, © Jacob Osborne/USFWS

A.A. Stagg High School students explore aquatic macroinvertebrate samples, identify specimens and discuss aquatic food web function during the Calaveras River Education and Appreciation Day. (photo: Jacob Osborne, USFWS).

Service fishery biologist Donnie Ratcliff organized the event and coordinated with other members of FLCR to ensure that the valuable knowledge of its membership could be conveyed to students. Ratcliff and Service biologist Mike Marshall taught students how to sample and identify aquatic macroinvertebrates and discussed how aquatic food webs function. Dr. Stacy Sherman (University of the Pacific and FLCR) presented information about aquatic habitats and fish that occur in the Calaveras. James Marsh (FLCR) engaged students in a highly interactive brainstorming and learning session related to observing species, habitats and processes in nature and translating those observations into personal nature journals. Service fisheries technicians Jacob Osborne and Jeffrey Cullen assisted with all of the activities. After the morning’s activities a free barbeque lunch was provided by FLCR near the reservoir and students were able to observe reservoir environments and learn about water safety from USACE park ranger Kevin Franken.

The goal of this event was to connect youth with their local watershed by introducing them to some basic field biology techniques, discussing healthy watershed functions and benefits, and introducing them to natural resource professionals and community members that work to protect and enhance the Calaveras River. Attendees provided valuable feedback that made the event a great success and will improve future events. In the future, organizers hope to include more students and families from throughout the watershed during multiple events each year. At the conclusion of the event, multiple students and other attendees reported significant enthusiasm and a desire to continue learning about, protecting and enhancing the benefits and opportunities provided by their local river.

Courtney Sexton, Communications Associate for Defenders of Wildlife, contributed to this post.

One Response to “Reaching out for wildlife in California”

  1. Elaine Brown

    What can I do to persuade you that the American Wild Horse is Native. There is ever increasing evidence and yet, I find you are totally closed-minded against that nativity which goes back as much as 55,000,000 years and whether wiped out to extinction or not, nativity is nativity. I find myself helpless in deciding whether to donate to you as I am as concerned about the wolves as the horses. Both are being brutally treated. Will you allow me to send you evidence of the Wild Horse nativity? Elaine

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