Monday, December 6, 2010

Audubon Society Chapters, California Attorney General and Wind Companies reach agreement on Altamont pass

(Berkeley, California, December 6, 2010) In cooperation with the California Attorney General’s Office, five Bay Area Audubon Society chapters and Californians for Renewable Energy (CaRE) have reached an agreement with wind energy operators owned by NextEra Energy Resources, LLC, to expedite the replacement of old wind turbines in the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area with new, larger wind turbines that are less likely to harm birds.

Golden Gate Audubon, Santa Clara Valley Audubon, Mt. Diablo Audubon, Ohlone Audubon, and Marin Audubon joined the Attorney General’s Office in negotiating an agreement that addresses the state’s need for renewable wind energy and the state’s obligation to protect resident and migratory birds.

“Our agreement sets an aggressive schedule for removing the old-generation turbines and replacing them with new-generation turbines that should substantially reduce impacts to birds,” said Michael Lynes, Conservation Director with the Golden Gate Audubon Society. “According to experts studying the Altamont Pass, the removal of the old turbines and replacement with properly-sited turbines may reduce impacts to birds by as much as 80%.”

Altamont Pass was heavily developed for wind power generation in the late 1970s and early 1980s, eventually including more than 5800 turbines covering a 56 mi2 area in eastern Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. These lands at one time provided ample habitat for birds and still serves as an important migratory corridor for Golden Eagles and other raptors. For much of the last decade, the Bay Area Audubon chapters and the operating wind companies have struggled to agree on ways to reduce impacts to birds, bats and other wildlife while fostering the environmental and economic benefits of wind energy generation in the Altamont Pass.

The new agreement reflects the consensus of the Alameda County Scientific Review Committee that the only way to significantly reduce impacts to birds and keep wind energy generation in Altamont Pass is to remove the old-generation wind turbines and replace them with better sited, new-generation models. And, regardless of whether the NextEra Energy Resources companies replace all of their turbines on this expedited schedule, they have committed to ceasing all operations of their old turbines by the end of 2015, three years before they are required to do so under their current permits.

“This agreement addresses the problem arising throughout the state: balancing the need for renewable energy generation with subsequent impacts to wildlife,” said Bob Power, Executive Director of the Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society. “We appreciate NextEra leading the way in the Altamont Pass to remove the old turbines and properly install new ones that should significantly reduce risks to birds. We are also mindful that impacts to wildlife will continue and the Audubon chapters will remain engaged in conservation planning and advocacy on behalf of birds and other wildlife in the Altamont Pass and throughout the Bay Area.”

Golden Gate Audubon Society, Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society, Marin Audubon Society, Mt. Diablo Audubon Society, and Ohlone Audubon Society are independent nonprofit organizations dedicated to protecting birds, other wildlife, and their natural habitats. They conserve and restore wildlife habitats, connect people of all ages and backgrounds with the natural world, and educate and engage Bay Area residents in the protection of our shared, local environment.

5 Chapters win Collaborative Funding grants for 2011

Audubon California announced the winners of 2011 Collaborative Funding, emphasizing that two of the grant projects will create templates that can be shared throughout the Chapter network.

-San Diego Audubon $ 3,000 with matching funds of $ 18,500 from the San Diego Audubon Society and Patagonia to develop and implement a Wildlife Conservationist Training Program to create a base of new long-term wildlife advocates mentored by San Diego Audubon’s current conservationists, and to share the program with other chapters.

-Fresno Audubon $ 3,000 with matching funds of $500 and $12,000 in in-kind volunteer hours from the chapter for Advocating for the Conservation of the Environment (ACTE) program to enlist new, diverse youth in conservation of birds, and to provide and monitor nest boxes for Barn Owl and other species in the Central Valley.

-Plumas Audubon $ 2,297.95 with matching funds of $1,949.85 from Eagle Optics and $ 260 from chapter members for an education program that uses binoculars and field guides to learn about migratory birds in Important Bird Areas in Plumas County.

-Peregrine Audubon $ 2,500 to write the detailed curriculum on their successful education program FLIGHT SCHOOL to distribute to Audubon chapters throughout California.

-Eastern Sierra Audubon $ 2,000 with $ 8,000 in matching funds from Sierra Nevada Conservancy, Sorensens Resort, and the chapter to bring Jack Laws to classrooms in 10 schools the Eastern Sierra to engage youth in Sierra nature and birds.

Audubon California received proposals were received from 7 chapters requesting a total of $ 19,936 with matching funds of over $ 30,000, and we wish we could fund them all.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Santa Clara Valley Audubon files lawsut over solar project in Panoche Valley

Hollister, CA – Following the approval of a conditional use permit and other authorizations for the Panoche Valley Solar Project, Save Panoche Valley and Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society joined in filing a petition in Superior Court challenging the certification of the Panoche Valley project Environmental Impact Report. A project of Solargen Energy, Inc., the entire proposed project footprint is roughly 5,000 acres of grazing land in Eastern San Benito County.

The Panoche Valley is designated Core Habitat for the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, San Joaquin kit fox, and giant kangaroo rat, all federally and state endangered species. Additionally, the valley is designated an Audubon Important Bird Area of Global Significance due to rare bird species, including the Mountain Plover, a candidate for the federal endangered species list.

The petition itemizes numerous inadequacies in the environmental analysis that is provided to inform decision-makers.

“The environmental analysis has been reviewed by the California Department of Fish and Game and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Both of these agencies, as well as numerous environmental organizations, have found the analysis, as well as the mitigations that are proposed to compensate for harmful impacts on endangered species, to be grossly inadequate. In other words, the project might have irreversible impacts on the survival of several species, and it has the potential to significantly contribute to the risk of extinction of these species” said Shani Kleinhaus, Santa Clara Valley Audubon’s environmental advocate.

The petition goes on to list inadequacies in the analysis of impacts on air quality, prime farmland, soil erosion, cultural resources, hazardous materials and emissions, hydrology and water quality, wildfires, and noise. “At its most basic level, the environmental document is supposed to inform the public and decision-making body of the full extent of impacts the project will have on the environment and on public safety and health. This document was so quickly put together it never addressed these basic issues or do so only in a cursory manner,” said Kleinhaus. “In no way does this environmental impact report provide the public and public officials with the information necessary to make an informed decision as to the losses, the costs and the risks associated with this project.”

The draft environmental impact report looked at four different project alternatives, and even with the smallest sized alternative, government agencies found irreversible, unmitigable impacts on wildlife and habitat. “One of many issues with this analysis was the narrow range of alternatives that were studied,” said Kleinhaus. “We expected alternatives to review brownfield sites, distributed solar as an alternative, and other locations in San Benito Co. None of these were analyzed. In addition, there is a feasible alternative that is less environmentally damaging, which involves developing the solar project on the Westlands property in Fresno County.”

“Santa Clara Valley Audubon Society supports sustainable energy programs that foster the development of renewable energy resources while focusing on energy conservation. We encourage the promotion of solar energy projects, policies and programs that focus on solar energy production in existing and planned communities, but do not impact landscapes that have agricultural or habitat value,” said Kleinhaus. “We support projects that do not endanger species, or the survival and health of the residents of rural communities.”

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wintu Audubon creates artificial burrows for Burrowing owl in Northern California

Using a grant from Audubon California, members of Wintu Audubon and other local bird enthusiasts in February constructed eight artificial burrows for Burrowing Owls in Chico. The weather held as the group installed two groups of four burrows each in the heavy wet soil of a location where the habitat will be conserved in perpetuity by the private property owner. Wintu Audubon conceived of the project because of the decline of Burrowing Owls, which is a California Species of Special Concern.

This type of habitat is important as increased development projects often result in the eviction of owls, caving in burrows and killing of the resident owls. According to local biologists, Burrowing Owls have been seen at the project location for nearly 20 years. Shortly after the project was completed, a Burrowing Owl was seen in the entrance of one of the artificial burrows. We are not sure if this is the one wintering there, or a new bird.

The project was funded through an Audubon California collaborative funding grant, which supports chapter conservation projects. Read more about the project in Wintu Audubon’s newsletter (page 7).

Photo courtesy Wintu Audubon. Pictured from left: Michelle Ocken, George Horn, Dorothy Davis, Dawn Garcia, Steve King, Nancy Nelson, Lonnie Swartout, Michele Swartout, Claudia Lyons-Yerion and Larry Jordan.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Sierra Foothills Audubon restores habitat in Placer Nature Center for Yellow-breasted chat, Yellow warbler

With a Collaborative Funding grant from Audubon California, Sierra Foothills Audubon restored grasslands and riparian habitat in the Sierra to benefit species of birds on the Watch List.

Volunteers in the restoration included youth, pictured here during one of the restoration days.

Read more about the restoration in Sierra Foothills newsletter The Phoebe online at

Pasadena and LA Audubon present 4th year of AUDUBON FILM FRIDAYS at Debs

Pasadena Audubon Society and Los Angeles Audubon Society joined with Audubon Center at Debs Park to present the fourth year of AUDUBON FILM FRIDAYS, a summer series of free, outdoor, once a month high quality screenings of films about nature and conservation preceded by a bird walk. The last screening was on August 27, 2010.

This year's films included ROCK THE BOAT, a video documentary of the kayak ride down the LA River that proved the river is navigable reversing the ruling of the EPA, and FLY AWAY HOME the true story of one young girl's determination to help her Canada geese migrate naturally. The films are shown in English with  Spanish sub-titles, or Spanish with English sub-titles.

Shown here are Pasadena Audubon's Ron Cyger with LA Audubon's President Travis Longcore after the bird walk.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Audubon California and chapters meet to talk about nature education

Audubon California and local chapters in California have long felt that nature education is conservation. What this means is that if we want to protect the state’s magnificent natural treasures into the future, we need to ensure that the next generation of Californians appreciates the great outdoors as much as we do. In an effort to improve all of our programs, representatives of Audubon California and northern California chapters gathered last Saturday at the Richardson Bay Audubon Center & Sanctuary for a Chapter Education Summit. The goals were to talk about our mutual goals, share programmatic ideas, and learn about each other’s curricula. But most of all, this was just a forum to find ways to share ideas and help each other succeed.

Participating chapters included representatives from Plumas Audubon, Yolo Audubon, Sacramento Audubon, Sierra Foothills Audubon, Central Sierra Audubon, Santa Clara Valley Audubon, Peregrine Audubon, Sequoia, Mendocino Audubon, Napa/Solano Audubon, and Golden Gate Audubon.

Peregrine Audubon kicked off the summit with a presentation of their multiple-visit bird focused education program, Flight School. This program includes a classroom visits and then a field trip where kids really become scientists. This is a great program and incorporates all the components Audubon strives for in an environmental education program.

Another summit was held on August 28 at Audubon Center at Debs Park with Los Angeles Audubon, San Bernardino Valley Audubon, San Fernando Valley Audubon, Sea & Sage Audubon, Ventura Audubon, Conejo Valley Audubon, Kerncrest Audubon and San Diego Audubon attending.

Sea & Sage Audubon's Queen of the Marsh Trude Hurd gave a presentation on the chapter's programs at San Jacinto Marsh in Irvine.

Results of the Summits will be posted on line at the Chapter Network Site

Important wetlands protected in So. California

The State Wildlife Conservation board approved the purchase of the Hellman Ranch wetlands, adding its 100 acres to about 62 other acres already set aside for restoration. The wetlands are part of Los Cerritos Wetlands, a corridor of important bird habitat along the Long Beach-Orange County shoreline.

El Dorado Audubon in Long Beach has worked to protect, help acquire, and monitor this site for years under the direction of Conservation Chair Mary Parsell.

Way to go Mary!

Calfornia Chapters win Together Green grants!

San Bernardino Valley Audubon, Monterey Audubon and Los Angeles Audubon will receive $ 48,000 in Audubon Toyota Together Green Innovation grants to restore habitat and educate youth in Southern California.

San Bernardino Valley Audubon recieves $18,000 for an education program for underserved youth at a Cahuilla Wetlands restoration site at the Salton Sea, Monterey Audubon will receive $20,000 for a restoration project on Carmel River at the Hilton Bialek habitat that includes an education program for youth, and Los Angeles Audubon receives $10,000 for continuation of the Baldwin Hills Greenhouse Intern program and Restoration Leaders program in partnership with Newfields in the new Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook State Park.

Congratulations to these California chapters!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Altacal wins Bank Swallow grant!

Dawn Garcia, Conservation Chair of Altacal Audubon in Chico, announced that the chapter has been awarded a $3,000 grant from Fund for Wild Nature for the development of a Bank Swallow brochure to be distributed to landowners along the Sacramento River. Bank swallows nest in sandy banks along the river, and is a California threatened species from loss of habitat.

Friday, March 12, 2010


Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that it has dropped plans to build an 85-mile-long "green" power transmission line across desert wilderness preserves and scenic ridgelines including Big Morongo Canyon Preserve, a favorite birding spot for LA Audubon birders and an Audubon California Important Bird Area. This follows three years of opposition from environmental groups including Los Angeles Audubon, San Bernardino Valley Audubon, California Desert Coalition and Wildlands Conservancy.

While supporting renewable energy, the environmental groups advocated that LADWP use transmission lines that already exist rather than build new ones through pristine habitat. The Green Path was planned to go through Pioneertown near Yucca Valley, Pipes Canyon Wilderness Preserve as well as Morongo.

Full story in LA TIMES here

Sunday, March 7, 2010

San Bernardino Valley Audubon helps save Joshua Tree from becoming a dump

Thanks to all of you, we’ve scored a big win for conservation in the Joshua Tree National Park. You might recall that last December, we told you about a proposed landfill just outside of Joshua Tree National Park that threatened some of the most precious desert landscape in the nation. Although two courts had blocked the project, the Department of Interior was giving serious consideration to launching another appeal. This week, Interior decided against the appeal after many of you expressed your opposition to the plan. If the Eagle Mountain landfill ever went forward, this part of California’s fragile desert ecosystem — home to many species of concern such as the Golden Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, California Black Rail, and desert tortoise — would instead become home to huge amounts of waste. The Audubon effort to kill this project was led by the local San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society. A large coalition of conservation and civic organizations fought the Interior move.
The proposed Eagle Mountain dump would have been the repository for Los Angeles County’s garbage for the next 117 years, becoming the nation’s largest garbage dump on 3,481 acres of federal land. Joshua Tree Wilderness areas are located to the north, west, and south, forming an amphitheater around the proposed dump, with a buffer of a mere 2,500 yards to the Park’s boundary. The proposed site was in the heart of an area that a former park superintendent said “offers the most refuge for the greatest number of species from human impacts of any area in southern California.” In addition, the proposed dump site would have been directly across from the Eagle Mountain Elementary School. Idling trains & trucks spewing diesel, landfill gas, dust, and support facilities would have pumped 5,000 tons of air pollution annually, affecting the school children and residents of the surrounding area. Now those residents can breathe a deep sigh of relief.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ventura Audubon starts Snowy Plover Art contest with workshop

Ventura Audubon chapter leader Jane Spillman reports: "We had our first workshop for our "Share the Shore Children's Poster Project at the Gull Wings Children's Museum in Oxnard Feb. 20. Here is a photo of fourth grader Alex Shaw and the sign he made "Save the world - Save the birds". We have teacher packets out with about 20 classrooms, and are excited to see the artwork which will be coming back to us soon! Thank you to Mendocino Audubon for letting Ventura Audubon use the wonderful teacher materials you developed and the delightful "Pink Lady" story to jump start our project here!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Sacramento Audubon ranks fifth in US in Great Backyard Bird Count

Workshops and field trips, plus better publicity, helped Sacramento birders place fifth nationally in number of checklists submitted in this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count.  This more than accomplishing Sacramento Audubon’s goal of ranking among the top ten cities on the13th annual GBBC.  The local newspaper, the Sacramento Bee, was engaged by the challenge to help  make Sacramento a “Top Ten City.”  They helped publicize workshops (340 attended 6 workshops) and promote the count on GBBC Saturday.  To engage the younger crowd, we gave 2 performances of the Fenner Family’s GBBC puppet show.

The count is both educational and recreational and from the SAS Education Committee’s point of view, a wonderful opportunity to introducing the larger community to birding by  showing them how much  is going on right in their own backyards.  The workshops , held in public libraries throughout Sacramento County, covered the hows and whys of  the GBBC commitment (10-15 minutes)  followed by a 45 minute presentation on Sacramento backyard birds.  Our main objective is to connect folks with nature and make them aware of the value of citizen science.  While our new membership numbers did not increase markedly, the goodwill generated by the workshops was evident in the comments of folks after the presentations. As a result, SAS Beginning Birder Field Trips for February and March filled quickly.  Benefits to the chapter also included a contact list of 178 new birders and book sales of $300.
 With lists still coming in, National Audubon has tallied 422 lists from the Sacramento area out of the 5069 submitted for California. Total numbers are not yet available, but birds of 128 species were reported on Sacramento checklists.

Eastern Sierra Audubon holds May 1 Big Day on Owens Lake!

Volunteers are needed for our 2010 Spring Big Day bird census May 1st at Owens Lake.  The Owens Lake Important Bird Area  is one of the Eastern Sierra's greatest treasures. Last year's count had 62,000 birds! The census will primarily cover the Los Angeles Owens Lake dust control project which has attracted tens of thousands of migrating shorebirds and waterfowl. All of us will get together in the afternoon for food, story telling and a tally. Please consider joining us and contact Mike Prather,

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

4 coastal chapters win Snowy Plover Art grants

Ventura Audubon, Los Angeles Audubon, San Diego Audubon and Redwood Region Audubon will each receive around $4,000 to hold a Western Snowy Plover art contest for young children in their community, and to make signs to protect Plovers from the winning entries. Western Snowy Plover coastal populations are threatened and protected.
The grant program is modeled after the success of the program conducted by Mendocino Coast Audubon that resulted in a published children's book as well as signs.
The funding is provided as part of the Audubon/Toyota Pennies for the Planet program of Together Green with additional funding from a family foundation, and was dreamed up by Audubon California's Science, Seabird and IBA team.

2010 California State Parks grants announced

Audubon California has announced that Morro Coast Audubon and Redwood Region Audubon will receive grants totalling $10,000 in the 2010 California State Parks grant funding program for chapters.
The program was inaugurated in 2009 following the sale by Audubon of the McVicar property in Clear Lake to California State Parks. The funds received from the sale were placed in an Audubon California endowment for annual grant funding for partnership projects between California chapters of Audubon and California State Parks staff to restore habitat, monitor populations of birds, or reach out to a new conservation constituency in California State Parks, with preference for projects in Important Bird Areas or that help a species of bird that is at risk. The inaudugural grant was awarded to Sequoia Audubon for a partnership project with Ano Nuevo State Park to restore habitat on Cascade Creek to benefit riparian species especially Common Yellowthroat.
Morro Coast Audubon will partner with Morro Bay State Park in monitoring succession of habitat from field to coastal sage scrub by monitoring the species of birds that migrate to the habitat using a MAPS monitoring program. The chapter will receive $2500 and will match with $2500 in chapter funds to launch the project.
Redwood Region Audubon will receive $7500 to partner with Humboldt Bay State Park to restore potential breeding habitat for Western Snowy Plover, and attempt to attract to the birds to the habitat.
The next request for proposals for the next round of California State Parks grants will be issued in late spring 2010, and will be posted on the Grant Opportunities page of the Chapter Network site here

2010 Collaborative Funding grants announced

This year Audubon California had a record $51,239.65 in funding requests for outreach, education, and habitat restoration and monitoring, with $ 177,105.91 in secured or possible matching funds. We got proposals from 11 chapters, or 23% of the chapters in California.
The bad news is that due to the recession the budget approved by National Audubon Board for fiscal year 2009-2010 contains a reduction in Collaborative funding of 50% for this round. This October surprise caused us to rethink the projects and our selections, and delayed our announcement until December.
In consideration of the reduction in funding, our Selection Committee, in line with prior recommendations from Audubon California Board Chapter Committee, added some additional criteria in our selection process. We decided to eliminate chapters that have received Toyota Together Green, foundation, state agency, or previous Collaborative grant funding for the same project, or chapters whose projects were good candidates for foundation, state or federal funding such as Prop 84 or the MigratoryBird Partnership, and focus on chapters that are smaller, don’t usually apply or might not have other potential sources of funding, and that are willing to match the grant with their own funds.
This added criteria caused us to reluctantly eliminate some remarkable projects that we wholeheartedly support such as Pasadena Audubon’s trail signage in a new City of Pasadena park, Mendocino Coast and Morro Coast’s wonderful programs on Western Snowy Plovers, La Purisima’s engagement of the community at the Santa Ynez River estuary, San Diego Audubon and Los Angeles Audubon’s world class Education programs, the three chapter partnership between Fresno, San Joaquin and Stanilaus Audubon to create a birding trail map of the San Joaquin River, and Santa Barbara’s Eyes-in-the-Sky raptor education program, all of which are more than deserving of funding.
With only $ 13,000 to award, Audubon California has selected the following projects to receive Collaborative Funding grants for 2010:
Buena Vista Audubon $ 2,000 (with a match of $2,670 in chapter funds) for an outreach program aimed at three local colleges to engage a new conservation constituency.
Sierra Foothills Audubon $5,000 (with a match of $4,919.50 from chapter funds) to restore riparian habitat for the benefit of Yellow-breasted Chat and Yellow Warbler on the Traylor Ranch Sanctuary and Nature Preserve in the Sierra Foothills Important Bird Area, and to provide an education program for youth from Placer Nature Center
Wintu Audubon $ 3,000 for construction of artificial burrows for Burrowing Owl in Shasta County to help an at risk species.
Yolo Audubon $ 3,000 (with a match of chapter funds from Yolo, Sacramento, and San Joaquin Audubon) to help plan and present a symposium in 2011 on conservation concerns surrounding the Delta vision process with focus on species and habitat at risk in an Important Bird Area.
Congratulations to these four chapters and their leaders.
Next round of Collaborative Funding grants will be announced in Spring, 2010 on the Chapter Network Site. Go here.