The Center for
Alovely ecosystem known as the riparian forest is vanish-ing
from much of California. So it’s welcome news that
winegrape growers and other farmers and ranchers are
volunteering to restore and conserve these shaded river
corridors and their rich wildlife, fish, and songbird commu-nities.
Along the Lower Mokelumne River, the Lodi-
Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, Lange Twins Wine
Estates, Inc., East Bay Municipal Utility District, and other
landowners are working with the California Association of
Resource Conservation Districts, using an innovative con-servation
program, Safe Harbor. The Association adminis-ters
the new Lower Mokelumne Watershed Safe Harbor
Agreement, California’s first multi-landowner or “program-matic”
Safe Harbor, which is overseen by the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service. Winegrape grower Lange Twins Wine
Estates, Inc. is the first landowner to enroll.
California lost over 90% of its riparian forests by the
end of the 20th century. As the dense vegetation yielded to
urban and agricultural development, wildlife, salmon,
other fish, and songbirds also declined. Some species have
become so rare as to need protection under the
Endangered Species Act, including a colorful insect known
as the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle. Yet the remaining
remnants of riparian habitat still support more than 200
species of birds and 40 species of mammals, showing how
vibrant a restored river corridor could become.
All these animals are likely to find a more secure
home along the Lower Mokelumne under the new program.
Like all Safe Harbor Agreements, it encourages landowners
to volunteer to restore and enhance wildlife habitat on their
property without the fear of being burdened with new
Endangered Species Act restrictions. In return for their
beneficial stewardship, landowners receive legal assur-ances
their good deeds will not result in new property
restrictions and that they may continue normal business
Landowners along a 40-mile stretch of the Lower
Mokelumne River are eligible to enroll a total of almost
15,000 acres. Once enrolled, these landowners will plant
and maintain elderberry bushes and restore native species
typical of Valley Foothill Riparian habitats. Elderberry
bushes are an important component of the riparian forest
understory and the sole food source and shelter for the
federally threatened Valley elderberry longhorn beetle.
Neotropical migrant songbirds, resident songbirds, rap-tors,
and several mammal species also will benefit from
restored Valley Foothill Riparian habitat.
Since Safe Harbor’s inception 11 years ago, more than
30 Safe Harbor Agreements have come into force nation-wide,
and hundreds of landowners are restoring wildlife
habitat on nearly four million acres of land. In California,
landowners have signed Safe Harbor Agreements on
behalf of several species, including the San Joaquin kit fox,
the California red-legged frog, the southwestern willow fly-catcher,
and the northern spotted owl.
More recently in California, two other Safe Harbor
Agreements to benefit riparian forests are close to being
signed. River Partners have offered to enroll their Del Rio
Wildland Preserve in Glenn County in a Safe Harbor
Agreement for the Valley elderberry longhorn beetle. In
another Safe Harbor Agreement, the owners of two
Tehama County ranches have crafted a Safe Harbor for the
beetle and the California red-legged frog.
Landowners volunteering for new conservation
program in Lower Mokelumne River Watershed
Riparian forest habitat
One of many riparian forest species, the Valley elderberry
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