By Published On: November 13, 2015

Wet Meadow Improvements at Carey Ranch, Modoc County (CA)

Floodplain pastures and wetlands at Carey Ranch, maintained through infrastructure construction. 

In northeastern California, many of the working ranches that provide key habitat for waterfowl, waterbirds, shorebirds, and songbirds operate on shoe-string budgets. An unfortunate byproduct is that when critical infrastructure begins to fail, ranches are often forced to implement short-term fixes to hold things together rather than enacting proper, but more expensive, reconstruction projects.

Such was the case at the Carey Ranch located in Modoc County, California, west of Alturas.  This 2,575-acre ranch supports hundreds of acres of wet meadow pasture and associated wetlands on the floodplain of the Pit River, which flows through the ranch. 

In its fully functioning state, the Carey Ranch provides valuable habitat to many species of wetland-associated birds and other wildlife. But over time, structures responsible for producing much of its habitat value, its irrigation diversion weir and two floodplain levees, deteriorated and began to fail.  Major repairs were needed to restore the structures and maintain habitat and wet meadow pasture values.

Ducks Unlimited, Inc. (DU), working in cooperation with Carey Ranch, secured funding assistance from California Wildlife Conservation Board and U.S Fish and Wildlife Services’ Partners For Fish and Wildlife program to develop engineering plans and to reconstruct the deteriorated infrastructure.

After successful completion of the construction projects, DU continued to work with Carey Ranch to identify sources of funding through which to purchase a conservation easement on the Ranch.  It was fortunate that during this period, the Natural Resources Conservation Service developed its Wetland Reserve Program Reserved Grazing Rights Pilot program.  This was a perfect fit for the Carey Ranch, as it would allow the Careys to continue to graze its wet meadow pastures, which was good as good for the ranching operation as it was for wetland birds.  As of mid-2012, an enrollment application was filed and the outlook for an easement on much of the Ranch’s key wetlands looked promising.