California Conservation Corps Watershed Stewards
Commission AmeriCorps State FY 2011
Statement of Need - Runs of Pacific salmon and steelhead (salmonids) have been the lifeblood of the Pacific Northwest for centuries. From the earliest inhabitants to today's modern communities, salmonids have fed California's coastal and inland families and have driven its economy. From historic abundance levels, approximately 90% of Chinook, coho, and steelhead stocks have vanished from most California rivers. Declining numbers of native salmonids have led to the listing of several species under the Federal and State Endangered Species Acts. Not only has this dramatic decline had a negative impact on families that depend on this resource for their livelihoods, but the State is also at risk of losing billions of dollars in direct revenue provided by commercial and recreational salmon and steelhead fisheries due to restricted regulations. Population declines have been attributed to many factors, perhaps the most critical of which is habitat degradation. Past efforts to restore salmonid habitat have often failed because they were not science-based and efforts were piecemeal. Current, accurate, and comprehensive fish population and habitat data is needed to ensure that watershed restoration is based on a systematic, needs-driven approach, rather than an access-driven approach. In addition, natural resource professionals determined that direct landowner and community involvement coupled with education were essential to the restoration process. The Watershed Stewards Project (WSP) was subsequently created in response to these needs. Mission -- The mission of the AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project is to conserve, restore, and enhance anadromous (salmonid bearing) watersheds for future generations by linking education with high quality scientific practices. In cooperation with private landowners, industry, small community based organizations, and public agencies, the WSP partnership will assist in revitalizing watersheds that contain endangered and threatened salmonids and steelhead. Expected Impact -- 65% of watersheds members contribute to will improve by 20%. Students' knowledge of salmonid lifecycles and watershed processes will increase by 20%. Volunteers will contribute over 3,000 service hours to conservation and restoration efforts. The latest scientific information will be shared with over 10,000 community members, students, and natural resource professionals. Summary of Program Design -- Working cooperatively with landowners and land managers, members survey 2,500 miles of streams and watersheds using State and Federal protocols. These scientifically based surveys assess current fish populations, water temperature, food availability, habitat conditions, and habitat threats such as sediment and other pollution sources. Members then contribute to databases and reports leading to specific "prescriptions" for habitat restoration, which are then made available to the community at large. Each member will recruit and manage 15 volunteers in a hands-on watershed restoration project. Members also educate the next generation of landowners by instructing 1,375 K-12 students using WSP's Real Science curricula, a series of 6 lessons about salmonid and watershed science. K-12 students also engage in service learning projects, allowing students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to watershed restoration. Over 10,000 teachers, students, natural resource professionals, community members, and private landowners benefit from the cooperative relationships WSP members build in the communities they serve. WSP's 25 placement sites range from San Luis Obispo north to the Oregon border and east to Yreka in 12 large rural counties.