Duke University Study confirms need for Waterbird Habitat Projects

A recently released study by Duke University adds further evidence that increased flooding of fields and extending this flooding deeper into spring are needed to help waterbirds. The hard reality is that over 90 percent of the original wetlands in California’s Central Valley are gone. Based upon the valley’s critical role for the health of the Pacific Flyway, its very future is quite possibly in our hands now. How we collectively invest and innovate to help these beautiful birds may well prove be our legacy.

The good news is that the California rice industry and its many conservation partners have been hard at work increasing waterbird habitat for several years:
• In year 3 of a $7 million project, funded by USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), to enhance waterbird habitat in ricelands—over 40,000 acres currently enrolled
• In year 4 of cooperative efforts with The Nature Conservancy to get more flooded rice ground for birds in early-fall and spring seasons
• Recently created, the new California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation enables tax-deductible donations to be efficiently invested into bird habitat projects
• In the initial stages of a USA Rice and Ducks Unlimited-led national project, funded by NRCS, to potentially enhance waterbird habitat and water use efficiency on over 10,000 acres of California rice


There also two important Legislative proposals designed to help waterbird conservation efforts in the Valley:
AB 832 – Provides a tax credit for winter flooding to stabilize and increase this important waterbird habitat
AB 472  – Incentivizes valuable waterbird nesting habitat on lands idled for water transfers

While these current and proposed activities are helpful to waterbird conservation in the Valley, let’s all keep the conversation going about what more we can do to preserve the Pacific Flyway for future generations.

Paul Buttner is Manager of Environmental Affairs for the California Rice Commission.