Grassland's Haven for Birds



On my mother’s side, my family came to northern California in the early 1870s and settled in the vast Central Valley. Despite the big ecological changes that had occurred in the previous quarter-century immediately following the Gold Rush, my great-grandparents encountered a Valley that was, during many winter months, virtually an inland sea, flooded by untamed rivers flowing from the mountains. They saw skies blackened by countless millions of waterfowl migrating along the Pacific Flyway. Today, my nineteenth-century relatives would hardly recognize the Valley. The rivers have been dammed, the water has been diverted, the fields have been tilled and towns and cities have sprouted and spread across the land. But here and there, thanks to the hard work of hunters, fishers, conservationists, private land owners and public agencies, pockets of the Valley’s environmental past have survived. The biggest is adjacent to the booming community of Los Banos. Early on winter mornings in Los Banos, while many recently arrived residents are gassing up for their long motorized commutes to the Bay Area, other long-distance commuters, having flown thousands of treacherous miles along the Flyway, are settling into their protected ancestral waterways nearby. It’s a sight to see.


Since we shot our story, Dean Kwasny, the biologist who we interviewed on tape, has left the Grassland Water District. But Jeff Kerry still owns his land and the work of all the cooperating organizations continues.

What do hunters and conservationists have in common? Very often, quite a lot, including thriving wetlands and wildlife on the wing.
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