California dreaming: saving farms and salmon

Photo courtesy of USFWS

Some of the most iconic landscapes on the Pacific coast are found along Humboldt Bay in California. As one of the largest bays along the Pacific Flyway, thousands and thousands of birds seek refuge and nesting on and near its waters. However, this area is also known for the crystal clear streams that meander through these ancient forests.

Endangered Pacific salmon return to these streams to spawn, while young salmon mature in the streams and estuaries before swimming to the ocean. Salmon serve as a foundation for these ecosystems , providing nutrients for plants and other wildlife. Salmon are also important to local communities by supporting a $3 billion industry in this region and beyond, according to the Wild Salmon Center.

Against this backdrop, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Coastal Program works with communities to conserve land that is important to them. Humboldt Bay has lost 90% of its tidal salt marshes, which were historically drained and diked for agriculture. Since 2005, the Coastal Program has been working with local partners, including the Northcoast Regional Land Trust (NRLT), to conserve wildlife habitats while preserving agricultural lands.

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, the restoration efforts have been successful. The coho salmon in Freshwater Creek grow 4 times faster, which increases their ocean survival. The native salt marsh plants have an 80% survivorship, creating important habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.

Learn more about this partnership, the Coastal Program, and NRLT by reading the full article.

Chris Eng is a fish & wildlife biologist with the USFWS Coastal Program.