NWTF Dollars At Work: Sul Norte Native Grassland Restoration Phase I

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From Left: Former Sac River NWR Manager Kelly Moroney, Current Sac River NWR Manager Joe Silveira, Former SoCal RD Doug Abfalter,  NorCal RD Jolene Begley.
From Left: Former Sac River NWR Manager Kelly Moroney, Current Sac River NWR Manager Joe Silveira, Former SoCal RD Doug Abfalter,  NorCal RD Jolene Begley.

How it started

The Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge (Sac River NWR) is comprised of over 10,000 acres. The refuge is broken up throughout 30 separate units along the Sacramento River, from Red Bluff to Colusa. The majority of these units are open to hunting, although many of them are by boat access only. These units offer some fantastic opportunities for waterfowl, deer, dove, quail, wild pigs and most importantly turkeys!

Less desirable plant species prior to restoration.
Less desirable plant species prior to restoration.

The Nature Conservancy (TNC) has partnered up with Sac River NWR and helped to restore many of the refuges’ units. NWTF has also been a big player in assisting with funding of many of these restorations on some of the more popular hunting units. Many of the units were once-converted croplands, mainly orchards, that were either given to the USFWS or bought from willing sellers. These have slowly been restored back into native riparian habitat

The Sul Norte Unit is located off of highway 162 and can be accessed either by boat or by foot. It is open to upland game, waterfowl and deer hunting. Kelly Moroney, former Manager of the Sac River NWR, approached NWTF in 2014. We discussed a possible restoration project that would help to convert one of the remaining grasslands that had yet to be restored on Sul Norte. Because they saw huge benefits that the project would have for turkeys, quail, deer and non-game species, the California State Board decided to approve the funding for this project. Work began that fall.

Drilling of native grasses, Highway 162 bridge in the background of the photo.
Drilling of native grasses, Highway 162 bridge in the background of the photo.

Restoring grasslands for turkeys

Native perennial grasses, sourced from local seed, were planted in the fall of 2015. Native wildflower species were planted in Spring of 2016. By early summer 2016 the fields were looking fantastic!  These grasslands provide forage for adult turkeys and poults. Additionally, they will also help to conceal broods of turkey poults during their most vulnerable stage in life: the first two months after they’re born. Turkey production, in addition to hunters, will highly benefit from this project!  NWTF was also successful in an Upland Game Bird Grant in 2015 that will help add onto this existing project for Phase II. Stay tuned.

Fantastic success!  Species shown are creeping wildrye, blue wildrye, purple needlgrass, and some meadow barley.
Fantastic success!  Species shown are creeping wildrye, blue wildrye, purple needlgrass, and some meadow barley.
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