Archive for January, 2017

Information is important. With information each of us as individuals, and our society as a whole, can learn about the world. With information, we can all make decisions that make sense. With information, we can all discuss ideas.

Without information none of that is possible. Without information, we are, at best, at the mercy of our current, limited knowledge, and our base instincts. Without information we are, at worst, at the mercy of the limited knowledge and instincts of someone else.

This is why the gag order, and insistence that all reports and data be pre-screened before release to the public, issued by the President to the EPA are so concerning to me, and I think should be so concerning everyone else. This is exactly the kind of action that limits access to, and spread of, information. It will only hamper all of our abilities to operate as rational, critically thinking individuals. It is the kind of action that is put in place to control what we, as citizens, know and when we know it. This is censorship and it has no place in science or a free society.



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PBCS logoOn Saturday, I had the pleasure and privilege of being the MC for the awards celebration at the Point Blue Conservation Science 2016 Bird-a-thon dinner. It was a terrific evening that the staff of Point Blue had put a lot of work into to make run so smoothly.

This was a celebration of the 39th annual Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon (learn more about it here) which is a fund raiser where teams of birders go out into the county of their choice and bird for a 24 hours period each fall. These teams collect sponsors who donate money to Point Blue in fixed sums or on a per-species basis. It is a great event that gets people out to enjoy the natural world, see a lot of different species of bird (and other wildlife), and raises money for bird research and conservation of birds and of the whole ecosystems in which they, and we, live.


Rich Stallcup doing what he loved (photo by Juliet Grable)

The Rich Stallcup Bird-a-thon (named for the late great Rich Stallcup who played a huge roll in founding the Point Reyes Bird Observatory that later became Point Blue Conservation Science and also in inspiring several generations of birders and naturalists) has raised over $3 million over its 39 year history making it the longest running event of its kind in the USA!

The 2016 Bird-a-thon, collectively, saw 266 species of birds, raised more than $82 thousand, and included dozens of teams comprised of several hundred individual counters.

At the awards dinner, we recognized individuals and teams who raised the most money, who competed for the most species seen per county, who competed as green teams (meaning that no fossil fuels were used during the actual count). We also recognized the contributions of the youth teams, of which there were three this year, and one of which I co-led.

In addition to the awards, Wendell Gilgert, the director of the Point Blue Rangeland Watershed Initiative, gave a presentation on the importance of rangelands in protecting biodiversity, reducing greenhouse gas levels, and storing water. It was a fantastic presentation that I think exposed even the most experienced birders in the audience to some new information and a novel way of looking at biodiversity to read the health of a landscape.

It truly was a lovely evening in the company of a bunch of passionate bird nuts, and I am very much looking forward to the 2017 bird-a-thon! I hope you will join us!


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Delta Conservancy Logo 3I have been working at the Delta Conservancy for a little over a year, now. In that time, one of the major projects I have been working on is our Proposition 1 Grant Program. Proposition 1 was a water bond passed by voters in 2014. Among many other things, it allocated $50 million dollars for the Delta Conservancy to give out to fund projects that would restore habitat, improve water quality, and/or support sustainable agriculture within the legal boundary of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. A large part of my role here has been to help our Program Manager and higher ranking staff to form the competitive process by which organizations could submit proposals for projects, the process of reviewing and ranking those proposals to determine which will be funded, and then the management of the specific grant awards to successful projects.

In 2015, just before I began working here, the Delta Conservancy received its first round of project proposals (there will be subsequent rounds in the fall of 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019). I was very involved in reviewing those proposals and scoring them to determine which would go on to be awarded funding. We have now gone through the entire process of reviewing the proposals, recommending the most qualified proposals to our board of directors for approval, and then writing the actual grant agreements which is pretty exciting because it now means we are able to move forward with giving funds to get projects accomplished.

I thought it might be interesting to introduce you to those projects as they get underway. I am going to be the grant manager for four of the projects from our 2015 batch of proposals. The first to begin was the Lower Marsh and Sand Creek Watershed Riparian Restoration Planning Project that I wrote about here. Our second grant funded project was just signed, and it will help create a fish friendly farming certification program for growers in the Delta, and it is the one I will focus on in this post.

Fish Friendly Farming (FFF) the title given to a whole process by which growers in a region can agree to use techniques called Beneficial Management Practices (BMPs) when growing their crops. By voluntarily conforming to these BMPs, growers are using land and water resources that minimize harmful effects on fish and wildlife, and maximize conservation strategies.

Different BMPs need to be created for different geographic regions because those different regions have a huge range of factors, many or most of which may vary. What types of crops are grown in a region? What types of soils are those crops growing in? How much water is available, and of what type (groundwater versus surface water, for example)? What species of fish and wildlife are found in a region? What types of habitats occur in a region? All of these and more mean that BMPs need to be very carefully applied so that they remain consistent and useful. This link contains information and a video on the Fish Friendly Farming program that has been developed for the wine country of Napa and Sonoma counties in California.

chinook 01

Fall-run Chinook Salmon

One area in which BMPs have not been well developed is the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, and developing this BMPs is exactly what the first goal of this project will be. A second will be to publish and distribute the Delta specific BMPs in a handbook that can be used by growers. A third goal will be to enroll Delta growers in the voluntary process so that they can become certified Fish Friendly Farms. This project will be conducted by a non-profit organization called the California Land Stewardship Institute (CLSI). The CLSI will work with growers, other agricultural specialists, ecologists, and conservation biologists to create BMPs for the major crop types in commonly grown in the Delta. This project has a budget of $89,450 awarded from the Proposition 1 Grant Fund by the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy.

In the three years that this certification development project will take, it is going to be very interesting to see what practices are identified as the most effective at protecting wildlife while still maintaining the economic output of the agricultural products. I will keep you posted on these developments and also on the other grants I will be managing as they come online.

As of this writing, we are about to receive our second round of full proposals which will then require review and scoring. I am looking forward to seeing what projects are proposed and which are successful and will be funded by the Delta Conservancy.

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