Three family farms in California’s Stemple Creek Watershed recently received much-needed conservation assistance from the Natural Resources Conservation Service through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act).
I am excited about one historic ranch in particular, where we helped a third-generation rancher make her operation more sustainable.
On this ranch, located outside of Petaluma, California, Elizabeth Cunningham raises free-range chickens and pigs for the local market. Elizabeth is the granddaughter of the original homesteader and the first in her family to seek NRCS conservation assistance.
NRCS oversaw the installation of riparian fencing to on the ranch to protect a creek on the property—a tributary of Stemple Creek—from over-grazing and erosion, improving water quality. We also partnered with a local conservation organization to plant native vegetation for improved wildlife habitat, hiring local contractors to do the work.
The Recovery Act, was created by the Obama Administration to boost the economy, in part by developing and improving the Nation’s infrastructure. The Stemple Creek work (on these three properties, but also many others) is part of a continuum of proactive partnership and voluntary conservation that developed after the EPA declared the watershed impaired under Section 303d of the Clean Water Act in 1990 due to high sediment loads. The creek flows to California’s northern coast, where it empties into the Gulf of Farallones National Marine Sanctuary. The sanctuary provides habitat for threatened species such as the California freshwater shrimp.
The Recovery Act funds granted to these three projects has contributed to the tremendous conservation improvements in the Stemple Creek Watershed over the past 20 years, which have resulted in dozens of miles of restored stream banks and almost every dairy in the watershed completing water quality improvements. Every day, I am inspired and impressed by the work of our local landowners and conservation partners in this watershed.