As organizations that care deeply about the environment, economy, and way of life in the Sacramento Valley, we are excited about a collaborative and science-led approach to land and water management that is yielding benefits for fish, birds, and people across California.
Informed by research from leading experts with the University of California at Davis and spurred by a need to restore habitats for native species, including the threatened spring-run Chinook salmon, our organizations are working together to find a way for wildlife and farming to thrive together without choosing one over the other. (See A joint effort to protect the Central Valley’s water, ecology).
Our work has modernized infrastructure, restored 90 miles of Butte Creek, and led local farmers to allow their rice fields to be flooded each summer after harvest. By slowing down the river system and spreading the water across a portion of the historic floodplain, these local farmers are enabling habitat restoration for fish and birds while also recharging precious groundwater resources and maintaining flood protection downstream.
The results have been striking. Once nearly gone from Butte Creek, the number of spring-run Chinook salmon returning to the Valley has increased 25-fold from their lows in the 1970s through the 1990s. Millions of birds now also return to the Valley in fall and winter to utilize the ricelands and adjacent wetlands along the Pacific Flyway.
The innovative conservation strategies to reactivate our floodplains pioneered in the Butte Creek watershed are now being applied throughout the Sacramento Valley to restore aquatic ecosystem function—while also making California’s agricultural and downstream urban water supply more resilient to the major climate-driven threats like severe drought and major floods facing our State.
An upcoming documentary film produced by acclaimed film-maker Kit Tyler highlights this great Valley success story and the local landowners, scientists, water managers, and conservationists who are behind it. We hope you’ll join us in celebrating Sharing Butte Creek when it premieres on November 17 on KVIE (Sacramento PBS Channel 6) at 7:00pm as part of their viewfinder series.
California Rice Commission
Ducks Unlimited, Inc.
Northern California Water Association
For more details and information, please see Butte Creek Salmon Recovery.