Planted rice fields contribute to local communities, the state’s economy and have the unique ability to contribute to wildlife, the environment and broader ecosystem.
Every species from Swainson’s Hawks, Bald Eagles, Sandhill Cranes, River Otters, Western Pond Turtles, millions of migratory waterbirds traveling the Pacific Flyway, and the state and federally Threatened Giant Gartersnake all utilize the important habitat and food resources planted rice fields create.
With 95% of California’s historic wetlands now gone, rice fields now serve as critical surrogate wetland habitat for wildlife. Acquiring, restoring and replacing the wetland habitat and food resources for wildlife rice now provides would cost close to $3 Billion.
Every year 7-10 million ducks and geese innately travel to Northern California’s Sacramento Valley, spending the winter months in rice fields, relying on leftover rice grain as a primary food source enabling them to refuel before the next long journey.
Rice fields provide more than 60% of the diet for the millions of ducks, geese and other wintering waterfowl.
Winter flooded rice fields also create critical habitat space for waterfowl to rest and develops aquatic organisms known as “Zooplankton” which is a nutrient-dense food source for fish.
Continued yearly work between rice farmers and scientists indicates rice fields may hold the key to boosting the state’s dwindling salmon population, with rice fields creating nutrient-rich food for baby salmon.
Planted rice fields are inherently multi-beneficial, with many others connected to the growing process. 40% of water used to grow rice gets recycled, flowing to neighboring farms to help irrigate other crops, traveling to wildlife refuges for reuse or continuing downstream returning to the environment.
For two decades now, the Sacramento Valley has been designated as a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network site of International Importance, with rice fields being recognized for their importance to shorebird populations along the Pacific Flyway.