With respect to our ongoing efforts to help recover salmon in the Sacramento Valley, there is a lot to learn from the work over the past several decades to improve bird habitat and food sources along the Pacific Flyway. The major breakthrough on the Pacific Flyway came when farmers, hunters and naturalists all started asking the same question: why were all the birds congregating on the rice fields rather than the purely managed wetlands next door? The intuitive and soon thereafter verified answer from energetics studies was that it was the “food” that the birds were craving, in this case the leftover rice in the fields.
Similar thinking has emerged in the discussions around salmon and there is much to learn from the experiences, both empirical and social, with respect to the Pacific Flyway. Jacob Katz, the Central California director at CalTrout, has been advancing some of these ideas with the work that he is pursuing in the Yolo Bypass and other places in the Sacramento Valley. Perhaps most important and refreshing is that he is not sitting in a faraway city running a model or dreaming up these ideas—he is out studying the fish in the rivers, walking the fields, and working with local farmers, conservationists and biologists. He is looking for practical solutions and seeking to fix the problem. Check out his interview by former Sacramento Bee reporter Matt Weiser in Water Deeply.