By Nate Seltenrich
On one side of a levee at Hayward’s Eden Landing Ecological Reserve is healthy pickleweed marsh. On the other is a moonscape marred by stagnant pools of crimson water and desiccated patches of pure white salt.
As with other sites around the San Francisco Bay, plans are under way to return this landscape altered by 150 years of salt production to its natural state. At Eden Landing those plans hinge on an unlikely player: Ducks Unlimited, a pro-hunting conservation group based in Memphis.
In late May, California’s Wildlife Conservation Board – a division of the state Department of Fish and Game, which owns the land – awarded the nonprofit group $8 million to improve public access and help restore portions of the 5,000-acre reserve. That’s on top of the $7.1 million that Ducks Unlimited received from local and federal agencies in 2009 and 2010 in part to tear a 100-foot breach in a perimeter levee that for more than a century protected the salt ponds from bay tides.
When complete, the reserve will become habitat to a range of species, from invertebrates to migratory birds. It will also offer critical protection against projected sea-level rise, with some levees kept in place to ward against storm surges and a network of ponds and marshes able to buffer rising waters.
Similar restoration projects are increasingly being handed to nonprofit organizations instead of cities and public agencies.
“The state doesn’t have resources to manage the land in the way it needs to be managed,” said John Donnelly, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Board. The board has allocated more than half of its budget to private nonprofits in recent years, and is increasingly willing to fund acquisition projects that establish nonprofits as permanent stewards of environmentally valuable land, he said. Click Link Below For Full Story!