The Western View: The Central Valley Habitat Exchange

Taylor HillmanFeatures, Western View

Over the last 150 years, more than 95 percent of the natural habitat in California’s Central Valley has been replaced by farms and ranches. As a result, native wildlife populations have declined. Today, California faces the challenge of recovering these species, and the ecosystems on which they depend, while maintaining productive agricultural lands. The Environmental Defense Fund, or EDF, has an innovative proposal that would help ease this problem.

They’re working a new program that would pay farmers and ranchers to grow wildlife habitat in addition to crops on their land. It’s already been tested in a small way, when rice growers were paid to keep their fields flooded during key times to help out migratory birds during the recent drought.

When it comes about, This new Central Valley Habitat Exchange will create opportunities for farmers and ranchers to conserve and restore habitat for at-risk wildlife in the Central Valley.

Farmers would be paid to “grow” habitat such as flooded fields for salmon and migratory birds. They would also be rewarded for managing row crops or alfalfa for Swainson’s hawk and wetlands for giant garter snakes. Monarch Butterflies could be helped, too, by rewarding farmers for planting a strip of milkweed and wildflowers to help sustain them.

According to the EDF, The Central Valley Habitat Exchange would support healthier streams, resilient floodplains and riparian corridors, resulting in more jobs, cost savings, and other societal benefits.

It would create a new funding stream that enables landowners to earn revenue by implementing innovative strategies to restore functional habitat.

The exchange is a collaboration among American Rivers, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Point Blue Conservation Science, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, Department of Water Resources, California Trout, Environmental Incentives, California Department of Conservation, Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV), and Audubon California.

To me, it sounds like a good idea. For more information, contact the EDF or visit their website at

I’m Len WIlcox and that’s the Western View from AgNet West.