Yesterday, the Wildlife Conservation Board awarded a $465,000 grant to the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD) for a cooperative project a local private landowner, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), the State Coastal Conservancy (SCC), and National Marine Fisheries Service to restore riparian habitat in areas critical to special status amphibian and fish species, located on two coastal watersheds in Santa Cruz County. Additional in-kind engineering and design services were provided by the USDA Natural Resource Conservation Service.
The two restoration projects funded by this grant have been identified by the Santa Cruz County Integrated Watershed Restoration Program (IWRP) as high priorities for conserving wetland dependent species in the county. IWRP, established in 2003 by staff from the RCD, SCC, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), Coastal Watershed Council, and the City and County of Santa Cruz, is an innovative program that has been critical to increasing the pace and scale of restoration in Santa Cruz County.
One of the projects will improve approximately 1300 feet of riparian habitat along Soquel Creek for steelhead and foothill yellow legged frogs, two endemic threatened species. The project will focus on reducing stream temperatures, critical for riparian species survival. The problem can be exacerbated during times of drought when low stream flows can lead to higher water temperatures. Large rock, originally installed for bank protection will be removed and the banks replanted with riparian vegetation to provide shade along the stream. Downstream spawning areas will be improved by addressing fine sediment from an eroding landslide and the addition of large wood and other features will increase refuge for steelhead.
The second project is located adjacent to San Vicente Creek in northern Santa Cruz County. It will restore critical areas for endangered Coho salmon, Steelhead, and California Red Legged Frogs by improving degraded habitat to provide refuge for the species during high stream flows.
Established in 1942, the RCD is a locally-governed special district and one of the oldest environmental organizations in the County. Originally tasked with helping farmers reduce erosion, the RCD has evolved alongside a changing community and now acts as a hub for conservation working with landowners in a non-regulatory manner. These projects are excellent examples of how RCDs help people help their land.
“A lot of work went in to making this project a reality” said Chris Coburn, Executive Director of the RCD. “We appreciate the opportunity to work with a willing landowner to voluntarily improve his property for the benefit of the environment, the IWRP program for facilitating the process, and of course for the funding from the Coastal Conservancy, the WCB and contributions from the landowner to make it happen”.