Among the many budget modifications included in Gov. Brown’s May budget revision proposal this week, at least one will have a direct benefit to Central Valley birds that have been hard hit by the drought this year. Representatives of Audubon California are applauding a modest allocation to “improve water infrastructure for wildlife refuges.” The allocation will be part of nearly $39 million going to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for a variety of habitat improvements.
Conservation groups have been calling upon the state to ensure water deliveries to the refuges during the drought because of the large numbers of birds that depend on these Central Valley habitats for survival.
“Of course availability is the key obstacle to getting water for these 19 Central Valley refuges, but in many cases it’s hard to get the water where it’s needed because of poor infrastructure,” said Michael Lynes, Audubon California’s director of public policy. "Birds need the water, and anything that helps get it there is appreciated."
A century ago, Central Valley wetlands supported 40 million migrating waterfowl along the Pacific Flyway. By the 1980s, however, 95 percent of those wetlands had been lost to the development of our towns, cities, and farms. Certain agriculture can help support the birds and other wildlife but it is not a perfect replica for natural habitat, and with so little natural wetlands left it is critical that they have water.
Acknowledging the massive impacts to wildlife from federal irrigation, Congress in 1992 passed the Central Valley Project Improvement Act (CVPIA) to support habitat for birds, fish and other wildlife in the Central Valley. This legislation mandated minimum allocations of water to the network of federal wildlife refuges, state wildlife areas and private wetlands in the Central Valley. This commitment is just a tiny fraction of the water allocated elsewhere in the Valley and we should be able to meet this commitment.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. With more than 50,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local Audubon chapters, Audubon California is a field program of the National Audubon Society. More information is available at www.ca.audubon.org.