Managing an Evolving Landscape for Conservation Programs

Managing an Evolving Landscape for Conservation Programs

In early-September, the CRC hosted a Conservation Programs Workshop, providing a comprehensive update of what’s on the horizon for new programs, given that our recent $7 million Regional Conservation Partnership Program (RCPP) is winding down.  The following are major subject areas covered at this workshop.

California Ricelands Waterbird Foundation (Foundation) Activities

We discussed exciting new plans for the Foundation to directly implement its own conservation program, similar to the BirdReturns Program, for CRC members.  This program will provide late-winter, early-spring habitat targeted for shorebirds through contracts with growers for shallow-flooded habitat between mid-February and early-April.  Be looking for an opportunity to apply shortly after harvest season. Please make sure you are receiving our e-communications to make sure you are informed about this upcoming enrollment period.

California Winter Rice Habitat Incentive Program (State Winter Flooding Program)

A summary of the first year of the State’s Winter Flooding Program (AB 2348, Aguiar-Curry, 2018) was presented.  This program, implemented by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (Department) in coordination with the CRC, provides $10 per acre for winter flooding activities.  It was noted that only about 20 percent of the $5 million in funding was obligated this first year.  

We have been working to improve the program by sponsoring AB 256 (Aguiar-Curry), a bill which is currently headed to the Governor for his consideration.  This measure would allow the Department to contract directly with tenant farmers (not just landowners), allow the winter-flooded acreage to be rotated annually and remove the requirement that the ground must have been planted to rice two of the three prior years to participate.  We believe these changes will make the program more attractive and accessible to growers.  

The next opportunity to enroll in the program is expected this November.  

New Opportunities under the 2018 Farm Bill

The CRC’s activities to apply for two new programs were also covered in the workshop.  It was noted that the CRC recently submitted a $1.5 million application to the Natural Resources Conservation Service’s (NRCS) Conservation Innovation Grant (CIG) Program in partnership with Ducks Unlimited and Point Blue Conservation Science.  This would increase conservation programs implemented through our Foundation and seek to increase private-sector investment into our conservation practices through expanded fundraising activities funded through the CIG.

We also talked about plans to apply for the next generation of RCPP with more ricelands conservation programs focusing on waterbird habitat.  Our application is due in early-December and will involve many of our conservation partnership groups. We will pursue $10 million in new conservation funding for the next five years of program activity in California ricelands.

CRC Pilot Salmon Project

We provided an update on our Pilot Salmon Project in an effort to develop practices for using winter flooded rice fields to help struggling salmon populations.  We are entering into our second year of pilot studies with an eye towards someday having practices, similar to our waterbird conservation programs, where growers can enroll in practices that will help Sacramento Valley salmon populations.

For more detailed information about any of these upcoming programs, please contact Environmental Affairs Manager Paul Buttner at or Wildlife Programs Manager Luke Matthews at

More Conservation Stories

egrets by canal

Applications underway for program to provide Water for Wetlands

In response to the extreme drought in California’s Central Valley and the expected reduction in critical wetland habitat for Pacific Flyway waterfowl and other waterbirds, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has made $2 million available this winter to private wetlands in the Sacramento Valley to increase the amount of available wintering  habitat for migratory birds. Several organizations including the California Rice Commission, California Waterfowl Association, Ducks Unlimited, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, The Nature Conservancy, Point Blue Conservation Science and Audubon California have teamed up to provide drought relief for wetlands and help offset the costs of flooding private wetlands with groundwater in winter 2021-2022.  For more details or to apply for the program please view this flyer

Deadline to apply for Drought Relief Waterbird Program fast approaching

Deadline to apply for Drought Relief Waterbird Program fast approaching

You have less than one week to apply for a special program to help wildlife endure the drought. The California rice industry has teamed up with the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) to fund a special $8 million Drought Relief Waterbird Program. This program seeks to create waterbird habitat through the operation of groundwater wells to winter flood rice fields for migratory birds. The program will be rolled out on an expedited timeframe, given the rice harvest schedule this year.