On November 15, 2023, California‘s Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) awarded $116.6 million in grants to 37 habitat restoration and conservation projects.
Here are a few examples of the winning projects.
The WCB provided a $3.6 million grant to Outward Bound Adventures, Inc. (OBA) to restore approximately six acres of oak woodland habitat adjacent to the Los Angeles Zoo.
The Los Angeles Zoo Oak Woodland Restoration and Career Pathways project will strengthen oak woodland health and biodiversity for long-term resilience by restoring an ecosystem that can serve to mitigate the impacts of climate change through carbon sequestration.
“Restoration initiatives like the OBA/Zoo Oak Woodland restoration project have tremendous impact not only in the oak woodland habitat and plant community, but it will have unparalleled impact in the low-income communities of color who will be engaged to do the restoration through a conservation education workforce development program,” said Charles Thomas Jr., Executive Director, Outward Bound Adventures, Inc. “This will promote ownership, stewardship and career training in a community that has historically been absent in conservation.”
The work will be undertaken through a unique partnership between the Zoo and OBA, the oldest non-profit in the nation created and dedicated to providing outdoor education, conservation and environmental learning expeditions for low-income urban youth from diverse communities in Los Angeles.
“Through the restoration of this oak woodland habitat, we will be providing important resources for native pollinators, birds, and other wildlife; informing future restoration activities through rigorous science; and providing the leaders of tomorrow with experience needed to pursue careers in conservation,” said Jake Owens, Conservation Director at the Los Angeles Zoo.
WCB approved approximately $116.6 million in grants to 37 projects at its Nov. 15, 2023, quarterly meeting that will help restore and protect fish and wildlife habitat throughout California. The grants will also provide new and improved public access, recreation and educational opportunities.
Other funded projects include:
A $30 million U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition grant for a cooperative project, Rancho Jamul Ecological Reserve, Expansion 6, with The Nature Conservancy to acquire approximately 1,291 acres of land located just north of Otay Lakes within Proctor Valley in San Diego County for the protection of coastal sage scrub habitat that supports listed species, wildlife movement corridors and key regional wildlife linkages within the San Diego Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.
It will also provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities.
“Preventing biodiversity loss is critical to a healthy California, and this investment significantly protects core habitat including many endemic species like the golden eagle and endangered quino checkerspot butterfly,” said Cara Lacey, Climate Program Associate Director at the Nature Conservancy California. “Conserving this landscape not only helps keep habitat connected for vulnerable species but will also benefit people with an expansive urban refuge in San Diego County.”
The transfer of approximately 40 acres of land by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife to Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation to own, operate, and maintain the Mount Whitney Fish Hatchery in perpetuity for purposes of public access and habitat preservation. The Mount Whitney Fish Facility is in the city of Independence in Inyo County.
A $1.5 million grant to Mendocino Land Trust to restore pollinator habitat along the southern Mendocino County coast with a particular focus on restoring habitat for the federally endangered Behren’s silverspot butterfly (BSB).
The Coastal Mendocino Pollinator Habitat Enhancement project will restore a combined 53.4 acres of coastal prairie habitat, with a focus of planting highly dense patches of early blue violets, at Navarro Point, Manchester State Park (MSP), Point Arena-Stornetta Unit and Pelican Bluffs.
Additionally, 47 acres of invasive European beachgrass will be removed at MSP, allowing the native dune mat to reestablish.
“Members of our diverse working group all specialize in supporting each part of these insects’ complex life cycles,” said Anna Bride, Stewardship Project Manager, Coastal Mendocino Land Trust. “From captive rearing and release efforts of the BSB to early blue violet restoration, we’re all passionate about these little organisms and their place in the greater ecosystems of our region.”
A $14.8 million grant to the Western Riverside Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) to acquire approximately 670 acres of land at B Canyon for the protection of critical wildlife habitat and a movement corridor that supports many special status species including the Southern California/Central Coast Evolutionary Significant Unit mountain lion population in the Santa Ana Mountains, and to provide future wildlife-oriented, public-use opportunities located in unincorporated Riverside County.
“This linkage is a key component of the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan reserve system and exemplifies the integration of good planning for our environment and infrastructure,” said Nathasha Johnson, Chair of the RCA Board of Directors.
“Conserving B Canyon south of the existing undercrossing at State Route 91 preserves a critical linkage between Cleveland National Forest and Chino Hills State Park, providing mountain lions and other wildlife the movement corridors and habitat they need to thrive,” she added.
A $1.9 million grant to the Transition Habitat Conservancy for a project to study the effects of using a broad range of tortoise conservation tools and techniques to enhance tortoise survival at known tortoise hotspots, located approximately six miles west of Boron in San Bernardino County.
“In response to the ongoing decline of desert tortoises, the Desert Tortoise Conservation Innovations project will apply a wide array of cutting-edge conservation actions with long-term monitoring to assess their effectiveness,” said Tim Shields, Founder and CEO of HardShell Labs, Inc.
“Tortoises in the study area will benefit from habitat enhancements and raven predation reduction but, more importantly, the innovative combination of actions will serve to inform tortoise conservation efforts across the range well into the future,” he explained.
A $4 million grant to The Wildlands Conservancy (TWC) to acquire approximately 8,085 acres of land at Lone Pine Ranch. This land will be added to and managed by TWC’s approximately 18,575-acre Eel River Canyon Preserve.
The acquisition will protect the oak woodlands, freshwater creeks, grasslands, ponds, marshes, riverine habitat, and conifer forests that support numerous wildlife species.
TWC will provide free access for passive recreation and interpretive activities.
“We are honored to receive support today from the Wildlife Conservation Board to complete the protection of the Eel River Canyon Preserve lying along over 18 miles of one of the wildest and most scenic river canyons in the country,” said Frazier Haney, Executive Director of the Wildlands Conservancy.
“The preserve will serve as the keystone to our larger vision for an ‘Eel River Emerald Necklace’ of preserved lands stretching along the river, protecting wildlife and habitat, providing access to hike, paddle and camp along the future Great Redwood Trail, and engaging local communities,” he concluded.
This is the fourth and final phase of the acquisition of Lone Pine Ranch. WCB will have provided nearly $20 million toward three of the four phases, permanently protecting 26,412 acres located in the rural area south of the community of Kettenpom in Trinity County.
Photo of Outward Bound Adventures, Inc., conservation workforce interns at the Los Angeles Zoo Oak Woodland Restoration site is courtesy of Jake Owens.