Ducks Unlimited, in partnership with the California Wildlife Conservation Board and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), have completed restoration work on 140 acres of historical wetland, upland, and riparian habitats in the heart of Merced County. This parcel was purchased from a private landowner in 2009, and ownership and management are now in the hands of the CDFW as part of the North Grasslands Wildlife Area's Gadwall Unit. The project was named the Widell-Ramacciotti Wetland Restoration after the former landowner, Ramona Ramacciotti, and the late David Widell, who spearheaded efforts to restore this property.
Ducks Unlimited received additional funds from the California Wildlife Conservation Board for wetland restoration efforts on this property, which included earthmoving to restore pond bottoms and wetland hydrology; creating new water delivery swales and levees; and installing a low-lift pump, pipe, and associated water-control structures. Three new two-man concrete duck blinds will provide additional public hunting opportunities.
In late winter, 17 volunteers led by local DU biologists Chris Hildebrandt and Derek Mynear gathered to complete the upland and riparian restoration component of this project. "It was really neat to see so many volunteers show up early in the morning, shovels in hand, ready to go," Mynear said.
A total of 400 black willow cuttings and 200 rooted trees were planted along a swale adjacent to the property's western border to create a buffer, decrease disturbance, and provide habitat. Adjacent upland areas were planted with more than 1,000 native shrubs, including quailbush, coyote brush, and mulefat, to provide diverse habitats for a variety of wildlife.