Wetlands Restoration – The Land Trust of Santa Cruz County

The USFWS’ Coastal Program and Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program worked with the State Coastal Conservancy and the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County (Land Trust) to develop a National Coastal Wetland Conservation Grant proposal in FY2010 that helped to secure a 45-acre property in the middle Watsonville Slough, one of the five tributaries associated with the Watsonville Slough complex in Santa Cruz County, California. The proposed active and passive restoration efforts on the property will increase the existing palustrine wetlands to almost 30 acres and the property will ultimately be managed as part of the Land Trust’s recently established 485-acre Watsonville Sloughs Farm property. The Land Trust is in the process of developing a long-term management plan for the property with a Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) that is comprised of staff from the Coastal Program and other partners, including the State Coastal Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD), Watsonville Wetlands Watch, local biologists, and representatives from the organic farming community. In FY2010, the Coastal Program is also providing cost-share and technical assistance on two other habitat improvement projects associated with the Watsonville Slough Farms property that will address immediate sedimentation issues into the Watsonville Slough system and provide benefits to the only known breeding pond for the federally threatened California red-legged frog (Ranadraytonii) west of Highway 1 in the slough system. These projects are immediate needs for the Land Trust’s property that will eventually tie into the long-term management plan being developed by the TAC.

The Watsonville Slough complex is one of the largest remaining freshwater coastal wetlands in the central coast of California, totaling approximately 800 acres and represents the most significant wetland habitat between Pescadero Marsh (San Mateo County) and Elkhorn Slough (Monterey County). This slough system includes five tributaries: Hanson Slough, Harkins Slough, West Struve Slough, Struve Slough, and Watsonville Slough. The slough complex is located along the Pacific flyway and the wetlands, marsh, and grasslands provide critical resting habitat for migratory waterfowl and significant wintering habitat for raptors. The slough ecosystem also supports the Federally-threatened California red-legged frog and the recently delisted the brown pelican (Pelecanusoccidentalis) and also supports at least 10 other bird species of state special concern.

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