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Ducks Unlimited breaks new ground in San Pablo Bay

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Sept. 18, 2013 – Ducks Unlimited (DU) and Sonoma Land Trust (SLT) now have the next key piece to a North San Francisco Bay wetlands restoration project, after being awarded $538,000 by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association (NOAA). The funding is part of a total $1.5 million request for the multi-phase Sears Point Restoration Project, which will enhance and restore tidal marsh habitat and seasonal wetlands and grasslands in the San Francisco Estuary.

“It’s incredibly exciting to break ground on a site that hasn’t been touched by tidal waters for more than 100 years,” said Renee Spenst, regional biologist for DU. “Within three years, we will see a dramatically different landscape from the vantage point of the Baylands Center next to San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge headquarters as bay front levees are lowered and breached in two locations.

“Sears Point is a nearly 1,000-acre project. The impressive coalition of partners, combined with the measurable habitat improvements, will be a model for future large-scale projects, so funding these ongoing efforts is critical. We’re thrilled NOAA is supporting us and we will continue to seek additional funding from other sources as well.”

This is the first year of an anticipated three years of funding from NOAA. In addition to DU and SLT, partners on this restoration project include the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wildlife Conservation Board, California Coastal Conservancy, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Integrated Regional Water Management Plan through the California Department of Water Resources and many others.

Following construction, the Sears Point tidal habitat restoration will benefit canvasbacks, scaup, mallards and northern pintails, and 22 fish species, including Chinook salmon. As the marsh continues to develop, it will support clapper rail and salt marsh harvest mice as well. The public will also benefit, as the project will add 2.2 miles to the San Francisco Bay Trail.

Sonoma Land Trust purchased the Sears Point property nearly a decade ago and has been planning for its restoration ever since.

“It’s taken the hard work of so many individuals to get to this point,” said Julian Meisler, baylands program manager for SLT. “We are exceedingly grateful to Ducks Unlimited, NOAA and all of our partners for helping to bring the financial and technical expertise that will make the restoration a success.”

Restoring fish habitat in the San Francisco Estuary is vital to recovering threatened and endangered species such as Sacramento River Chinook, Central Valley Chinook, steelhead and green sturgeon. It will also help recover their habitats, benefit other commercially important fisheries and maintain or improve the economies of surrounding communities.

“Roughly 90 percent of San Francisco Bay’s wetlands have been lost to development and other causes,” said Christopher Yates, assistant regional administrator for protected resources at NOAA. “This project will be a big step in returning land back to tidal marsh—important habitat for threatened and endangered fish like Chinook salmon and steelhead.”

The Sears Point project is part of a larger $50 million effort to restore Napa-Sonoma marshes extending from the Napa River to the Petaluma River along the northern edge of the San Francisco Estuary. The San Francisco Bay and Estuary were designated a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance in January 2013.

Ducks Unlimited Inc. is the world’s largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, Ducks Unlimited has conserved nearly 15 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/DucksUnlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/DucksUnlimited and watch DU videos at youtube.com/DucksUnlimitedInc.

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