Biodiversity in the Sacramento Valley

Thursday, Sep 7th, 2023

By David Guy

Today is California Biodiversity Day, which marks the anniversary of the launch of California Biodiversity Initiative in 2018 and celebrates our amazing state, the exceptional biodiversity we have in the Sacramento Valley and throughout California, and the actions we can work on with our many partners to ensure biodiversity.

In the Sacramento Valley, our goal is to promote functioning ecosystems and sustainable water supplies by preserving, sustaining, and promoting our communities and working agricultural landscapes that support ecosystem function and provide landscape-scale habitat benefits for fish, bird, and wildlife populations. Biodiversity–which on a regional landscape is the variety of life in a particular place with diversity of species, habitats, and vegetation–is dependent upon our precious water resources and our collective goal is to bring our natural and working landscapes in this region to life through the careful interaction of water, sun, and land that creates biodiversity (i.e., see MOU).

As we look to protect and advance biodiversity, we are focused on healthy rivers and landscapes—a holistic watershed approach that looks beyond the rivers and creeks to a healthy and highly functioning river valley, with synergy between the rivers and the supporting landscape. We have learned much during the past several decades in the Sacramento Valley through the efforts to improve both waterfowl and other species along the Pacific Flyway and spring-run salmon in Butte Creek, where wildlife and fish benefitted from and responded directly to water on the landscape.

As we look to the future, the Sacramento Valley provides fertile ground for biodiversity and this approach as we have:

  • Bypasses that are important to evacuate water from the region quickly during flood events and are available the rest of the time for more creative fish and wildlife management.
  • Seven National Wildlife Refuges, as well as more than 50 state wildlife areas.
  • Oxbows and side-channels along rivers and creeks.
  • Ricelands provide essential biodiversity in the region supporting 230 wildlife species, including critical migratory bird habitat, and over the last 5 years, rice farmers and fish biologists continue working together to help struggling salmon populations by developing strategies to raise juvenile salmon in winter-flooded ricelands.
  • The forests and watersheds that serve as the headwaters for California.

Water resources managers in the Sacramento River Basin are engaged in a comprehensive effort to help manage the regions’ water and land resources from the ridgetop all the way down the watershed to the river mouth using nature-based solutions that provide multiple benefits and water supply reliability for cities, farms, fish, birds and other wildlife, hydropower production, and recreation. These efforts will help protect and restore our biodiversity through forest management, floodplain reactivation, sustainable groundwater management, and healthy soils management, which in turn will enhance the region’s economy and food production by allowing working lands to provide food for human consumption, and provide food and habitat for the region’s terrestrial and fish species. These approaches will also build climate resilience, and promote species recovery.

To help think about and better understand biodiversity, we recommend the Atlas of the Biodiversity of California prepared by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We have also joined the California Rice Commission in offering thoughts on biodiversity and how to Protect Communities and Fish and Wildlife During Dry Years in the Sacramento Valley.


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