RESTORE imperiled species and damaged ecosystems

To ensure a healthy future, we need to protect habitats and ecosystems. But it will not be enough to preserve what is left of pristine places. We also need to reverse declines. Ensuring ecosystem resilience, the ability to recover from catastrophic events and respond to changing climatic conditions will require large scale ecosystem restoration to reestablish and rebuild systems that have been altered. We need to remove mining waste from rivers; revegetate forests; reconnect watersheds to the ocean and floodplains to their rivers; remove invasive species; replenish soils; and restore wetlands.

We are working to restore and repair imperiled and damaged species, communities and ecosystems, focusing on the processes that underpin their ability to provide natural, cultural, and other values throughout their original extents. We will rebuild California’s nature and make it resilient to future change.

The California Natural Resources Agency is taking immediate action to support the goal of restoring California’s biological diversity. These include:

Cutting the Green Tape (CGT) is an all-of-government approach to streamlining policies and processes to facilitate large scale habitat restoration. Key Activities of “Cutting the Green Tape” include: 1) North Coast Pilot project/The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Strike Team; 2) Forest management permit streamlining; 3) CGT Roundtables; and 4) CDFW and State Water Resources Control Board collaboration on a CEQA/401 certification.

Image of bull kelp forests under the ocean

Bull kelp forest. Photo: Patrick Webster // @underwaterpat

Kelp Forest Research and Restoration – The California Ocean Protection Council (OPC) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have initiated pilot efforts to restore the biodiversity of California’s iconic kelp forests – systems that have declined dramatically in recent years due to changing ocean conditions. In summer 2020, OPC, CDFW, and Reef Check California launched large-scale purple urchin removal efforts in support of kelp restoration at targeted locations on California’s north coast, where more than 95% of bull kelp has been lost since 2014. OPC, CDFW, and California Sea Grant have also initiated a statewide Kelp Recovery Research Program through which the state will partner with California’s leading kelp researchers to pursue innovative, solutions-oriented projects aimed at informing kelp management efforts statewide. Several of these projects will include lab and field testing of potential kelp restoration approaches that could complement urchin removal, such as seeding, outplanting, and assisted evolution.

Liberty Canyon Wildlife Overpass Crossing project will create a 200-foot overcrossing above US Highway 101, the largest wildlife crossing in the world. US Highway 101 transiting through the Santa Monica Mountains, acts as a significant barrier to genetic movement for mountain lions and all wildlife. Re-connecting the entire region is of significant ecological importance. Along with providing connectivity that will help ensure the sustainability of the overall biodiversity of the region, the most prominent and time-sensitive threat this project addresses is the likely extinction of the local mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains. The permanent loss of the southern California mountain lion would be devastating for conservation, but more importantly for the entire ecosystem because, as apex predators, they play a key role in the health of the landscape.

Large Landscape Resilience Planning in the Ishi WildernessThe Resource Conservation District of Tehama County and US Forest Service have begun planning a 38,000-acre restoration project to improve forest and watershed conditions in the Ishi Wilderness. Here Deer Creek provides critical spawning habitat in one of the few remaining strongholds for central valley Chinook salmon. Above the creek, the project will use prescribed fire to restore natural conditions in unique old-growth stands called “pineries.” The pineries are fire-adapted forest ecosystems that are habitat for sensitive and rare plants, the Tehama deer herd, Pacific fisher, and goshawk, and contain culturally important Native American and historical sites. The Sierra Nevada Conservancy is contributing $100,000 to this large-landscape planning project.

Image is from above looking over a marsh. You can see green land patches but the area is mostly flooded.

The project area of the Upper Truckee Marsh during high lake and high flows in 2017

Upper Truckee River Marsh Restoration – This project will restore the lower nine miles of the Upper Truckee River, which is the largest contributor of fine sediment pollution degrading Lake Tahoe water clarity. Years in the making, the project is the largest wetland and ecosystem improvement project in the history of the Lake Tahoe Basin, creating over 13 acres of wetland, constructing over 1,500 feet of stream channel, and enhancing over 250 acres of existing critical wetland habitat. The project will help the Marsh recover from past disturbances and will result in a resilient and biodiverse wetland. It will enhance habitat for a variety of aquatic and terrestrial species, including songbirds (including the state-listed willow flycatcher), raptors, bats, small mammals, fish, and insects. The project will improve water quality entering Lake Tahoe, raise local groundwater levels, increase meadow wetness, enhance wetland vegetation, sequester greenhouse gas, increase habitat resiliency, eradicate aquatic invasive plants, and improve wildlife habitat. In addition, a universal access trail to Lake Tahoe will provide educational signage and wildlife viewing opportunities. The project is anticipated to complete construction in the fall of 2022, with monitoring and adaptive management to continue thereafter.

Redwoods Rising: Implementing Landscape-Scale Restoration Redwoods Rising, a partnership between the California State Parks, the National Park Service, and Save the Redwoods League (SRL), was launched in 2018 with a goal of restoring historically logged-over forestlands (approximately 70,000 acres) in Redwood National and State Parks. The first phase of project implementation in two watersheds began in late 2019, and in early summer, with 2020 compliance and permitting in place, accelerated to full implementation. Blended park and SRL field crews with contractors are undertaking initial culvert and bridge replacements, road re-occupation and forest conservation thinning with targets of 920 acres or restoration thinning, 13 miles of road removal and 9 culverts replaced this summer. Anticipated biodiversity benefits include multiple listed rare threatened and endangered species, including the Humboldt marten, marbled murrelet, northern spotted owl, Coho and Chinook salmon, steelhead trout, and many listed plants. In addition, a universal access trail to Lake Tahoe will provide educational signage and wildlife viewing opportunities. The project is anticipated to complete construction in the fall of 2022, with monitoring and adaptive management to continue thereafter.

Pollinator Habitat Restoration – The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is working with the Wildlife Conservation Board, River Partners, Environmental Defense Fund, the Xerces Society, and others to create over 500 acres of pollinator centric habitat on CDFW lands. These habitat enhancements are taking place on four Central Valley wildlife areas and an ecological reserve. Restoration using seed mixes consisting of long-blooming forb and native grass species and patchily distributed milkweed stands will establish habitat for monarch reproduction. CDFW is committed to a comprehensive approach to biological diversity that includes our invertebrate friends.

The following represents a sampling of ecosystem restoration plans and strategies. We will add to this list as the Collaborative develops new information and shares information across the state.

California EcoRestore is a multi-agency initiative launched in 2015 to advance 30,000 acres of critical habitat restoration and enhancement in California’s Central Valley including the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (Delta), Suisun Marsh, and Yolo Bypass region. California EcoRestore and its partners pursue complex multi-benefit habitat restoration projects to deliver results.

The California Essential Habitat Connectivity Project is a statewide assessment of essential habitat connectivity intended to help incorporate natural resources considerations into transportation and land use planning.It includes a statewide map of Essential Connectivity Areas and an assessment of these areas and the lands they connect. It also describes strategies for maintaining and enhancing functional ecological connectivity through local and regional land-use and management plans.

Central Valley Flood Protection Plan Conservation Strategy is a systemwide conservation plan designed to complement integrated flood system planning and the development of the 2012 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan (CVFPP) and 2017 Update. Taking an integrated approach increases public benefits for every dollar spent.

The Multi-Benefit Flood Protection Project is a group of non-profit organizations working to improve flood protection of Central Valley communities. They share a commitment to advancing multiple-benefit flood management projects through partnerships with public agencies and private landowners.

Wetlands Restoration for Greenhouse Gas Reduction Program (Program) restores or enhances wetlands and watershed ecosystems to provide essential services to California’s people, wildlife, and fish. Wetlands have high carbon sequestration rates that can sequester carbon for decades. There is tremendous opportunity to restore or enhance large areas of mountain meadow, coastal tidal, inland seasonal, and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta wetlands that do not currently provide the full potential of carbon storage or other benefits due to historical land use.