OPINION – California has had it rough of late. The Golden State recently has suffered a historic drought, more than a dozen catastrophic wildfires, and a record heat wave. Scientific experts and policy makers agree, these troubling events aren’t episodic – the consensus is that climate change is actively taking a toll on Mother Earth.
However, despite these challenges, certain animal populations continue to thrive. One such example of resiliency is the healthy population of Northern California waterfowl. Reports show waterfowl populations were high in the Suisun Marsh and Napa/Santa Rosa regions relative to previous breeding seasons.
A survey conducted by the California Department of Fish and Game shows that in the Northeastern portion of California, waterfowl populations are in a “state of recovery.”
The survey found:
● An increase in the total breeding population of ducks by 39% since 2017
● Gadwalls increased by 43% from last year and are 20% above the long-term average
● Cinnamon Teal increased 131% over 2017, and are 83% above average
● Canadian Geese were comparable to 2017 numbers, and are 27% above average
● Mallards increased 38% over 2017, but are 20% below long-term averages
This improvement should be celebrated along with the fact populations are expected to remain strong in these areas.
So, what can we do to sustain this positive trend?
We can start by reducing carbon emissions, boosting forest restoration, and encouraging preservation of waterfowl habitats on private lands. At the state level, the California Air Resources Board manages a series of programs aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change, including cap-and-trade, which encourages big companies to reduce earth-warming emissions.
Non-profit organizations and farmers are doing their part too.
Ducks Unlimited, an organization dedicated to the conservation of wetlands, partners with farmers statewide to ease development of areas that are home to waterfowl and other wildlife. In certain regions, Ducks Unlimited also offers landowners access to a carbon-offset program that provides farmers with financial incentives to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
With the cooperation of public and private landowners, the California Waterfowl Association, has its biologists perform restoration and improvements across thousands of acres of wetland each year.
As stewards of the land, California farmers are often referred to as the “original environmentalists.” They continue to play a critical role in protecting water, air and land. This is especially true when it comes to fostering an environment beneficial to waterfowl. In fact, California rice fields provide 300,000 acres of wetland habitat and food sources for more than 230 species of wildlife, including about seven million migratory birds, including ducks and geese. California farmers also have pioneered drip irrigation and other water protection measures. They provide valuable open spaces and are national leaders in integrated pest management and responsible farming methods that limit impact to the environment.
Policy makers, farmers and wildlife conservationists need to continue collaborating to keep California’s waterfowl populations thriving. We must avoid complacency by continuing to protect our wetlands habitat in a way that will benefit the environment and our healthy waterfowl populations for years to come.
BY LARRY VENUS
Larry Venus has been a wildlife photographer for over five years in Northern California, which is blessed with a wide range of waterfowl and animals