Importance to Waterbirds
The Coquille Valley supports the highest concentration of puddle ducks (dominated by mallard, pintail, wigeon, and green-winged teal) wintering along Oregon’s coast. During harsh winters in the Great Basin, coastal Oregon experiences a 100-200% increase in bird use. Scoters are common wintering birds off several estuaries. Nestucca Bay supports the only coastal wintering population of dusky Canada geese (500 birds). Netarts, Yaquina, and Tillamook Bays all support wintering brant in small numbers. Aleutian Canada geese (over 10,000 birds) stage on pastures along the New River and Nestucca Bay.
This interior valley is approximately 49 km long and about 60 km at its widest point. It was created by one of the major tributaries of the Columbia, the Willamette River. Prior to settlement, this valley contained extensive systems of floodplain and wet prairie wetland habitats. It is believed that between 120,000 and 160,000 ha of wetland prairie existed in 1850. Today, less than 400 ha remain (Guard 1995). Public refuges exist at Slough, Ankeny, and Finley NWRs and Fern Ridge and E.E. Wilson WAs. The greatest threats to waterfowl habitat are expanding urban sprawl, intensive agriculture and degradation of existing wetland habitats.
Importance to Waterbirds
The Willamette Valley winters large number of ducks, including more than 50,000 mallard and 30,000 American wigeon. Green-winged teal, pintail, and ring-necked duck are common migrants and wintering birds. Five different races of Canada geese winter in the valley, including virtually the entire population of dusky Canada geese and recently, most of the population of cackling Canada geese. Total numbers of wintering Canada geese have grown from 20,000 to over 250,000 birds in the last two decades.
Upper California Coast
From the border of Oregon, important waterfowl habitats in northwestern California include the 18,225 ha Smith River floodplain, the coastal lagoons of Lake Earl and Lake Talawa; deltas of the Klamath, Redwood, and Little Rivers, and the estuarine complex of Humboldt Bay, Mad River Estuary, and the Eel River Delta. This latter wetland complex is second only to San Francisco Bay in size or importance for waterfowl in coastal California. It provides at least 8,000 ha of low-lying seasonal wetland, 8,000 ha of tidal marsh or mudflat, and 1,800 ha of sloughs and deep-water estuarine habitats, plus 400 ha of rare floodplain riparian forest. Expanding human populations is the greatest threat, and urbanization results in direct loss of habitat and also greater disturbance of birds, nonpoint pollution, modification of hydrologic regimes, and diversion of water.
Current conservation programs
Significant wetland conservation efforts in this region have been completed in the past five years. Additional wetland conservation projects are currently underway or planned for the future. Wetland conservation activities in the Lower Columbia Ecosystem have centered around four NAWCA grants. Two NAWCA grants in Willapa Bay and five grants in the Puget Sound have provided significant partnerships and financial resources for wetland conservation activities. The U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service has become a significant partner in wetland conservation activities in the region through the Wetland Reserve Program. Salmon recovery efforts have brought millions of dollars to the region to restore and protect important wetlands and riparian areas. Ducks Unlimited has capitalized on these efforts by securing millions of dollars from the Oregon Watershed Enhancement Board and the Salmon Recovery Funding Board of Washington. Most of the wetland conservation projects completed by DU in this region provide significant benefits to salmon, particularly by providing rearing habitat to juvenile coho and Chinook salmon.