Article and photos by Glenn Nader, Witcher Creek Ranch, Canby, California
Editor’s Note: Water 4 supports partnership-based conservation tailored to the unique opportunities and needs within landscapes, including conservation easements, agricultural flood irrigation infrastructure enhancements, fish and big game habitat improvement, and water management planning timed to habitat needs. This series of projects on a ranch in the Southern Oregon Northeastern California (SONEC) region, an area critically important to migratory birds who depend on working wet meadows for stopover habitat, is an excellent example of partners pooling their resources to enact meaningful, landscape-level change on private land. Here, rancher Glenn Nader shares his process as a case study in the power of simple infrastructure improvements that can make a world of difference.
The power of multiple conservation-focused programs and grants has allowed my family to make dramatic changes on our Northeastern California ranch. The Environmental Quality Incentive Program (EQIP) and Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program (USFWS PFW), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) grant, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) grant, and California Conservation Board grants greatly improved the sustainability of our ranch through reduction of cost of operation and addressing environmental issues that reduced any conflict with federal or state regulations.
My wife and I traded our portion of a ranch in the Sacramento Valley that had been the family since 1872 for a ranch in Northeastern California in 1999. My grandfather and father had plans for the ranch in their head and that worked well for them, but that was a different time. When we acquired the ranch, we developed a ranch plan that considered wildlife and recreation along with sustainable grass and cattle production. This planning allowed us to obtain funding to make major changes that we could not otherwise afford with our agricultural income.
We brought our plan before a team of specialists from organizations and agencies including the University of California Cooperative Extension, NRCS, the local Resource Conservation District (RCD), USFWS, CDFW, and California Regional Water Quality Control Board. We reviewed the plan with each entity and led tours of potential projects. Each organization involved brought a different knowledge base and perspective that improved the restoration process. They also assisted in coordinating different grants for the local RCD to implement the projects on our ranch.
We were also fortunate to have Dick Mackey, a local rancher, serve as a mentor. Dick has been a cornerstone of the local RCD and also has done much riparian improvement work on his ranch. We attended several tours of his ranch, which guided us during our efforts to restore our riparian areas.
The USFWS PFW Program played an important role by also taking on the environmental review and permits associated with the projects. This streamlined the process and allowed the local RCD to focus on implementation. We were also fortunate to have Point Blue join the process in 2014. Their biologist always had suggestions of things we had not thought about that brought value to our operation. We always looked forward to having the Point Blue biologist on the ranch to gain knowledge about wildlife enhancement opportunities.
After implementation, we initiated monitoring programs that included photos at different locations of the ranch to confirm that the restoration methods were making an impact. We’ve compiled those photos here to create visual documentation of the improvement of the ranch’s natural resources over time.
Restoring Bridge Field: Success with BDAs