Science for a Blue Planet

Featuring cutting-edge work, discoveries, and challenges of our scientists, our partners, and the larger conservation science community.

One Year In! Twelve Months of Restoration Impact Across California

Editor’s note: Since drafting the overview celebration post below, we published a deep dive on each of our two awards through our partnership with the WCB. Click here to view our dedicated post on the progress of the Roots Program and click here to view our summary of meadow restoration work.

One year ago, we announced the exciting news that the California Wildlife Conservation Board had awarded Point Blue two substantial block grants totaling $50 million to restore ecosystems on California’s working lands and Sierra meadows over four years. So, what’s happened over the past 12 months? A lot! We’ve built new partnerships, dramatically increased the availability of funding for groups historically left out of restoration funding, broken ground on new projects, and so much more.

Habitat restoration across California provides critical habitat for wildlife, like this Monarch butterfly. Credit: Christina Burnham.

In 2020, California set an ambitious goal of conserving or restoring 30% of its land and waters by 2030 through a movement known as “30×30.” Through these two awards from the WCB, California has asked Point Blue to take on a leadership role to help the state achieve its 30×30 goals, highlighting the unique value Point Blue provides of scientific rigor, multiple benefit restoration strategy, and a commitment to increase the diversity of participating communities.

Each of the two awards provides significant investment in existing Point Blue programs, allowing us to dramatically scale up the work we have been doing and take it in new directions. Through a $26 million dollar investment in our community-based restoration efforts on working landscapes, WCB funding allowed us to launch the Roots Program. And through a $24.7 million investment in our leadership of the Sierra Meadows Partnership, the WCB is supporting our work to restore degraded mountain meadows across the Sierra Nevada and southern Cascades of California.

Students participate in community-based habitat restoration on working lands as part of the Roots program. Credit: Sam Veloz.

Over the past year, our Roots Program supported the development of a whopping 65 new restoration projects on working landscapes including farms, ranches, community gardens, schools, vineyards, open space preserves, and regional parks across 26 counties in California. These projects will support approximately 300 specific conservation practices, including things like planting blue oaks and milkweed on ranches to increase biodiversity; installing nest boxes for songbirds, kestrels, and barn owls; leading creekside restoration projects to improve water flow and create wildlife habitat; and so much more.

The Roots projects were identified through a rigorous process designed, in part, to ensure restoration funding reached historically underserved groups, ones that have often had a hard, if not impossible, time, securing funding for restoration. These groups were defined as: Black, Hispanic, Native American or Alaska Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, LGBTQ+, Female; limited resource individuals total household income at or below the national poverty level for a family of four, or less than 50 percent of a county’s median household income; beginning farmers or ranchers (< 10 years); military veteran; and schools with more than 50% of students enrolled in the Federal free and reduced meal plan.

Beaver Dam Analog. Credit Tiffany Russell, Point Blue.

So, what exactly does community-based restoration on working landscapes look like? It can look like so many things!

  • In San Luis Obispo we’re supporting a multi-collaborator restoration effort on an open space preserve with partners including a local tribe to restore a permanently-conserved working lands property through installing process-based beaver-dam analogs and planting upland trees.
  • In Monterey County, we’ll be working with private landowners to install a hedgerow on a small hop farm and orchard which will restore native plant species to the property and provide habitat for pollinators like butterflies and bees.
  • And in Sonoma County, our Roots Program will be working with our STRAW program to establish approximately 800 plants including native grasses, sedges, and woody vegetation along approximately 3,000 feet of stream channel to increase habitat, sequester carbon, reduce erosion, and engage the local community in conservation practices and restoration science.

To read more about our Roots Program’s first year of operation, check out our story map here and stay tuned for a dedicated blog post just on this work.

Meanwhile, in California’s high country, we’ve been hard at work dramatically increasing the scale, effectiveness, and inclusivity of mountain meadow restoration. Point Blue and our Sierra Meadows Partnership (SMP) colleagues have selected 37 projects in the last year, totaling a nearly $15 million investment in meadow restoration and conservation while leveraging $5.5 million in cost share partners. SMP projects selected to date include:

  • 14 meadow restoration implementation projects ($8.55 million invested)
  • 13 meadow restoration planning projects ($3.88 million invested)
  • 10 technical assistance projects ($2.5 million invested)
Community members help to restore Childs Meadow in the Sierra Nevada by installing structures that will slow and spread water. Credit: Garrett Costello, Symbiotic Restoration.

Implementation projects can look like the work we’re doing for the Haskell Peak Meadows Restoration Project located in the headwaters of the North Fork of the Yuba River. With this funding, the South Yuba River Citizens League restored hydrologic function in five degraded meadows, totaling 229 acres. Supporting projects in the planning phase includes our work designing a 160-acre climate-smart restoration on Goodrich Creek in the Feather River headwaters to increase habitat for sensitive species, improve water quality, increase carbon sequestration, and improve the meadow’s resilience to a changing climate. We plan to engage the local disadvantaged community in restoration here, through our STRAW program. And as an example of the technical assistance work we’re supporting, California Open Lands, a non-profit led by a Mechoopda tribal member, is developing curriculum and conducting trainings in the use of Indigenous Traditional Ecological Knowledge (ITEK) to help better restore and manage Sierra meadows.

Community members in Kwolokam Meadow. Photo courtesy of Tübatulabals of Kern Valley.

These projects take us a long way towards our block grant goals of restoring 6,000 acres of mountain meadows, supporting the planning of 4,000 acres, and identifying of 2,500 acres of high-priority meadows for future restoration. Importantly, in our first year of funding, we invested nearly $1.7 million to fund indigenous-led projects and tribal involvement in non-indigenous-led projects across the Sierra Nevada. Increasing authentic engagement and inclusion of indigenous groups, who have historically had barriers to accessing restoration and conservation funding, in meadow restoration and conservation is a core strategy of this program.

To read more about the first year of operation of our climate-smart meadows block grant, check out our story map here and stay tuned for an in-depth blog post focused just on meadow restoration.

Point Blue’s partnership with the Wildlife Conservation Board is a uniquely powerful opportunity to greatly increase access to restoration resources across California. Together with existing and important new partners across the state, we are implementing restoration projects and spreading regenerative practices that can create or enhance wildlife habitat, store more water and carbon, and bring together diverse communities. We’re proud that the state has trusted us to steward these public resources and lead effective strategies to advance habitat restoration across the beautiful state of California.

Now that these two programs are up and running, we’re beyond excited to continue leading and guiding impactful climate smart restoration projects with diverse communities. Through these projects, we can restore California’s precious natural resources, safeguarding the healthy, functioning systems that people and wildlife need for generations to come.

We are deeply grateful for the funding support from the California Wildlife Conservation Board to fuel these impactful efforts throughout the state.