Wetlands are celebrated world-wide for the many services they provide. They help to regulate climate, control pollution and flooding, and provide valuable habitat for fish and wildlife. They are an essential component in the early life cycle of a large number of species and many of the state’s rare and endangered wildlife that are found only in wetland habitats. When all California’s wetlands types are considered together, they support more species of plants and animals than any other type of habitat in the state. They are considered an important part of California’s natural heritage and their health is a legacy we pass on to future generations. Unfortunately, the value of these wetlands was not always understood and as a result, California has lost more than 90% of its historic wetland acreage that existed at the time of European settlement.
Using funds allocated for the restoration of natural resources from a 1998 settlement against Union Oil Company of California (Unocal), The Land Conservancy together with our partners the Dunn-Wineman Family, California Department of Fish and Wildlife-Office of Spill Prevention & Response, California Coastal Conservancy, and the Natural Resources Conservation Service have recently completed a project creating important wetland habitat.
Nestled within the Nipomo Creek watershed, an area marked by commercial agriculture and open space, lies the Dunn-Wineman Family Ranch. The Ranch contains creeks that act as important migration corridors and habitat for wildlife. In the 1950’s the Ranch created a pond for watering livestock which also created a watering hole for wildlife, important resting areas for birds and breeding habitat for the threatened California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii). Over the years, the pond filled in with silt to the point that it was no longer functional. This restoration project is considered a win-win as it helps control erosion, increases wildlife habitat, recharges groundwater, and assists the family’s agriculture operations over the long-term.
“This project has been in the works for over ten years and throughout this time, The Land Conservancy worked to bring together support and resources for a project that has multiple benefits for wildlife, livestock, and the land. Our family is very excited to see its completion.”-Liz Dunn Wineman, Landowner
The new pond received some significant upgrades which should allow it to be maintained in perpetuity by the landowner. Through NRCS engineering, the new pond now features a revamped primary spillway to transfer stream flows on typical years and a reinforced emergency spillway engineered to handle flows up to the 100-year storm event. A special retaining wall made of articulated concrete blocks was installed to provide stable entry for cattle or machinery needed for long-term maintenance. Further work was done to stabilize areas of the creek surrounding the pond which were suffering from severe erosion. A technique called “bio-engineering” was used where Land Conservancy Restoration Specialists turn willow branches into living, growing structures that help stabilize stream banks.
In addition to the engineered improvements to the pond, The Land Conservancy has added a number of special modifications to the landscape to enhance its use for wildlife. A three–foot wide bench has been designed into the pond to promote use by red-legged frogs. A number of rock and brush pile structures were created throughout the site, to provide important cover for wildlife and important micro-climates which promote native plant biodiversity. To top it all off, the entire site was covered in seeds from native plants known to thrive in the Nipomo watershed The end result will be diverse habitat for both people and wildlife to share.
The future health of our land, water, and wildlife is up to private landowners such as the Dunn-Wineman Family. We salute them for establishing a legacy of habitat protection that will hopefully be passed down to future generations.
Photo: Liz Dunn Wineman stands in front of the completed stock pond. © Jon Hall