River Partners' mission is to create wildlife habitat for the benefit of people and the environment.

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San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge

The least Bell's vireo has returned to the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge. Photo by Po-Hon Liu.

The San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge (SJRNWR) is River Partners’ largest and longest-standing partner. Thanks to this collaboration, more than 2,000 acres have been put into restoration since 2002: the largest riparian restoration initiative in California.

The restoration work has benefited federally and state-listed species including the riparian brush rabbit, valley elderberry longhorn beetle, yellow-billed cuckoo, Swainson’s hawk, Chinook salmon, steelhead and Sacramento splittail, and the least Bell’s vireo. In fact, a breeding pair of least Bell’s vireo nested and fledged young in willows planted by River Partners. This was the first time this endangered songbird has appeared in the Central Valley in 65 years.

Additionally, River Partners’ various project sites on the SJRNWR are associated with removing barriers to reconnect the San Joaquin River to its historic floodplain and the newly restored riparian areas. River Partners pioneered the development of fish-friendly irrigation practices by installing a state-of-the art fish screen, which won the approval of National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Furthermore, through funding from the Cities of Tracy and Manteca, we developed innovative methods to re-vegetate the levees on the site to maximize habitat and flood-control benefits.

The above article originally appeared in the Summer 2009 issue of the River Partners Journal.