Small allocations for wildlife refuges in 2014 drought plan signal a brutal year for migratory birds

While certainly every water stakeholder in California will feel pain under a new drought operations plan released today by the California Department of Water Resources, Central Valley refuges and the millions of migratory birds they support will be particularly hard hit. Representatives of Audubon California today called for a greater commitment to supporting these critical habitat areas.

The plan acknowledges that managed wetland habitats in the Valley – including the refuges – will receive about 15 to 30 percent of their total water supply needs.

“Because of the importance of these refuges to migratory birds throughout the hemisphere, it’s vital that we do what we can to keep these habitats stable,” said Audubon California Executive Director Brigid McCormack. “During this difficult time, we look forward to working with the Department of Resources to ensure that the drought operations management takes into account the best timing and allocation of the very limited water resources currently granted to refuges.”

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.

“Providing adequate water for the conservation needs of our wildlife refuges is a promise that we’ve made to the Central Valley that we need to keep,” noted McCormack. “Birds need to be part of this conversation about addressing the drought.”

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. 

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