The Natural Resources Conservation Service recently launched a new $2 million pilot program to help increase the conservation value of rice farms for migratory birds. This pilot program is in large part due to work over the last three years by Audubon California, PRBO Conservation Science, and The Nature Conservancy that form the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership. Over the last three years, the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership has been working with the California Rice Commission, other conservation groups, and University of California to identify and test new growing practices that enhance the habitat value of rice farms for migratory birds. (Long-billed Curlew by Alison Sheehey)
As a result, the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership has been directly involved in designing the specific conservation practices included in this new program, building upon our success working with rice growers over the last three years. Specifically, in 2009 and 2010 Audubon and PRBO hosted two workshops with the California Rice Commission where we identified ways to create vital shorebird habitats commonly in short supply in the Central Valley’s agricultural landscape. In particular, we focused on creating more vital shallow water and nesting habitat for migratory shorebirds.
During the two years following these workshops, the Migratory Bird Conservation Partnership has worked with eight farmers in the Sacramento Valley to test the practicality and conservation impact of four specific practices, all of which have been included in the new NRCS program being rolled out.
Over the next two weeks, staff from Audubon and PRBO will be working closely with NRCS staff and the California Rice Commission to enroll farmers in this new program. This is an important milestone towards the widespread adoption of shorebird friendly rice practices and the application of NRCS funding in the rice growing region of California.