Like a fledgling about take flight, the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation is poised to administer its habitat management program independently, for the first time. Each year since 2015, the Foundation had channeled funding into a habitat program known as BirdReturns, which was operated by The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
That program compensated individual rice growers for extending flooding into spring and fall, thereby adapting their fields for use as shorebird habitat during the “shoulder” portions of the migration seasons. The term “shoulder” refers to the trailing and leading edges of the fall/winter migration season activity.
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Now that TNC, working closely with the California rice industry, has successfully developed a new model working lands conservation program, the California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation grasped the baton and is gearing up to conduct its own shoulder-season habitat management program. The Foundation previously took advantage of BirdReturns and its partnership with TNC to cost effectively increase waterbird habitat without needing to hire additional staff. By operating its own program in-house, the Foundation will be soliciting and assessing applications from growers who wish to submit bids to participate in the program, as well as performing all of the monitoring work.