Science for a Blue Planet

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

The Roots Program Celebrates its First Birthday

One year ago, we announced that California’s Wildlife Conservation Board had awarded Point Blue $26 million over four years to advance wildlife-beneficial conservation practices on farms, ranches, and other working landscapes across the state. Since then, we’ve launched the Roots Program to carry this work forward at Point Blue. We’ve been hard at work building partnerships, selecting projects, and implementing restoration projects from some of the state’s northernmost areas like Humboldt, Shasta, and Lassen Counties to its southernmost, like Los Angeles, San Bernardino, and San Diego Counties.

The map shows the counties where Roots projects are active one year into the the block grant. The number in each county represents the number of projects which you can explore further in our story map.

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.” Restoring degraded lands across California remains a critical component of the state’s ambitious plans to address the twin threats of climate change and biodiversity loss and working lands must be a part of the solutions. Working landscapes can be thought of as agricultural lands that people steward for farming or ranching, but also can include community gardens, school campuses, and regional parks.

One of the most exciting things about the Roots Program is our goal of helping restoration funding reach partners that often have a hard time accessing this funding. Our target over four years is to ensure that 50% of project funding is implemented in partnership with Native American tribes, disadvantaged communities, and historically underserved individuals.

The Roots Program released our first Request For Proposals in Spanish and English on March 27, 2023 and received an amazing 89 applications during our first funding round. These applications represent a broad distribution across California, with projects proposed in 34 counties. The vast majority of the applications consisted of historically underserved applicants, with 74% of applicants qualifying as disadvantaged by one or more criteria:

  • identifies as historically underserved
  • beginning farmer or rancher
  • limited resource applicant
  • military veteran
  • greater than 50% of students enrolled in Free or Reduced Lunch Programs
Beaver Dam Analog. Credit Tiffany Russell, Point Blue.

After Point Blue staff conducted outreach to the applicants and developed projects, we currently have 65 projects that are either approved/contracted or in the process of being finalized for approval (learn more about these projects via our StoryMap here). Of these 65 projects, 72% of the applicants self-identified with at least one of the historically underserved categories. And these 65 projects will advance over 300 conservation practices, including:

  • riparian restoration
  • hedgerow plantings
  • beaver dam analogs
  • removing hazardous fencing and replacing it with wildlife-friendly fencing
  • monarch & pollinator plantings
  • bird/bat boxes & raptor perches
  • cover crops
  • upland habitat restorations
  • oak plantings
  • invasive species removal

One of our most important goals for The Roots Program is to leverage Point Blue’s statewide networks to help increase and broaden the reach of conservation resources. To do this, we focused efforts in the past year on building exciting new partnerships and identifying new grant partners whose work we want to support and amplify. So what, exactly do projects that support wildlife, communities, and climate resilience look like on the ground? They can look like so many things! But here are three recent examples.

First up is the City of San Luis Obispo, which is leading an exciting, multi-collaborator restoration effort on Johnson Ranch Open Space Preserve, public land located in the City of San Luis Obispo. In collaboration with the California Conservation Corps, Environmental Center of San Luis Obispo (ECOSLO), and the yak tityu tityu yak tiłhini Tribe, the City will lead the restoration of a permanently-conserved working lands property through installing process-based beaver-dam analogs, and

Students participating in habitat restoration at Open Field Farms. Credit: Emily Allen, STRAW Program, Point Blue.

planting upland trees. Leading the grassland restoration and stewardship portion of the project will provide an opportunity for the Tribe to reconnect with their r ancestral lands, and the project will also educate and engage the public, and grow local technical capacity.

Next, we have a project with private landowners in Monterey County, where the Roots Program will install a hedgerow on a small hop farm and orchard. We are also partnering with two local organizations, Hedgerows Unlimited and Watsonville Wetland Watch, to implement the hedgerow, which will restore native plant species to the property and provide habitat for pollinators like butterflies and bees. We anticipate this project will start implementation in Spring 2024.

Finally, through our project with Open Field Farms in Sonoma County, The Roots Program will establish approximately 800 plants including native grasses, sedges, and woody vegetation along approximately 3,000 feet of stream channel. The project will be implemented by Point Blue’s STRAW program, which engages with students and teachers from local Petaluma schools to install the plantings. This project will increase riparian habitat, sequester carbon, reduce erosion, and engage the local community in conservation practices and restoration science. Over four days in December 2023, STRAW engaged over 200 volunteers at Open Field Farms, including students, teachers, and chaperones in the habitat restoration. Next year we will host 18 additional restoration project days, engaging an estimated 1,400 volunteers!

Stay tuned for more updates on these exciting projects, and many others, as they take root and grow!

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