Californians could use some good news about our environment. We’re in yet another drought, and some areas of the state are still reeling from last year’s wildfire season, the worst on record.
But there’s still reason to be hopeful about a future California where communities and wildlife have access to the natural resources they need to thrive. On June 5, the United Nations kicks off its Decade on Restoration campaign, an important acknowledgment by the world’s nations that reviving ecosystems is a crucial strategy for combating climate change, preventing widespread species extinction, and securing a stable economic future. The Decade on Restoration is the latest in a string of promising conservation commitments from across the political spectrum.
But turning good ideas into reality requires real, boots-on-the-ground action, and that’s where River Partners and our diverse allies shine.
A Leader in Delivering Results
River Partners is a pioneer in delivering the large-scale physical landscape change that policymakers are calling for to address the challenges of climate change. With our 20-plus years of experience, we are uniquely qualified to lead important efforts that keep California golden.
In only three or four years, River Partners can transform vast expanses of denuded, flood-prone river landscapes into thriving, self-supporting forests that provide critical habitat, help trap harmful greenhouse gases, improve flood safety, and conserve precious fresh water.
We’ve led hundreds of bold restoration efforts in more than 20 watersheds across nearly 17,000 acres throughout California. In fact, we’ve restored more habitat along California riverways than anyone else in the West.
Our decades of experience have taught us how to get the most out of each acre we restore. We innovate in the field and use our projects as living laboratories for cutting-edge restoration science. We share our field-tested approaches with partners, expanding the toolkit for large-scale ecosystem recovery.
The work we do provides immediate benefits as well as a blueprint for how local, state, and federal agencies can help communities rapidly adapt to a changing climate.
Driving Conservation that Influences the Nation
Governor Gavin Newsom’s 30×30 executive order is a promise to protect 30% of California’s lands and coastal waters by 2030. Under the order, state agencies are required to develop strategies for reversing species loss, restoring habitat, and developing nature-based solutions to counter climate change.
“This is a great, galvanizing opportunity to expand environmental conservation in California for the benefit of nature, to combat climate change, and to expand equitable access,” said Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot during a recent visit to River Partners’ flagship project, the Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto. “Projects like Dos Rios show us how to achieve 30×30 with multi-benefit projects that aid natural places and our communities.”
Earlier this year, President Biden followed California’s lead by signing a similar 30×30 order for the nation. River Partners has been working towards the goals of both 30×30 programs since our beginnings. We restore and reconnect thousands of acres of habitat each year to benefit species like salmon and monarch butterflies. We’re unlocking the potential for riverside forests to play a major role in combatting climate change with an end goal of retaining California’s incredible biodiversity, economy, and quality of life.
We’ve planted over 2.5 million trees to benefit species, California’s climate resilience, water resources, and more. Each year, the new forests we grow capture 1 million tons of carbon and conserve 1.6 billion gallons of freshwater for wildlife, farming, and households.
Growing Green Jobs
Both state and national plans to jumpstart the economy include investments in green infrastructure. River Partners has created thousands of good-paying green jobs, building green-infrastructure over the last two decades particularly in Central Valley communities where a new stream of jobs will have the greatest impact. We’ve channeled more than $100 million into California communities, strengthening local economies statewide.
Through our longstanding partnership with the California Conservation Corps, we’ve created thousands of floodplain-restoration jobs for young adults.
“Additional state and federal dollars would be tremendous in increasing job opportunities through the Corps for those living in urban communities across the state, especially as California emerges from COVID-19 and steep job losses” said Nicholas Mueller, Director of the Greater Valley Conservation Corps. “That funding is critical because it plants seeds of opportunity for young men and women who not only want jobs, but who want to grow a career doing something that makes a difference.”
Leading the way on Climate, Water, and Community Health
Tackling climate change naturally. As leaders work to activate their conservation commitments, River Partners is already advancing on-the-ground strategies. Restoring streamside forests in California and throughout the West sequesters carbon while providing other benefits like improved water quality, wildlife habitat, reduced flood damages, and groundwater recharge.
Conserving water amidst a drought. Our research shows that restoring riverside forests results in significant water savings compared to the irrigated farmland. At Dos Rios Ranch Preserve near Modesto – 1,600-acres of former farmland that River Partners restored to native habitat – we measured savings of approximately 1,340 acre feet of water per year, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of water used by 2,000 California households annually.
Expanding COVID-19 relief through the outdoors. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for outdoor recreation, especially in the Central Valley where park space per capita is less than anywhere else in our state. The increase in demand for outdoor recreation is unlikely to subside as the pandemic winds down. River Partners is committed to investing in natural infrastructure that also provides nature-based experiences for disadvantaged communities. Whenever possible, we plan our projects with an end goal of dedicating them back into public use as open spaces or parkways. In 2020 alone, we worked collaboratively with community members, leaders, and partners to build and enhance 11 different river parkways across the state.
Seizing the Moment
River Partners is emboldened by government pledges to keep California’s environment and communities thriving. We and our allies know that turning these commitments into tangible progress isn’t going to happen on its own. It’s going to take tenacity, a redoubling of efforts, stronger partnerships that unite diverse interests, and creative problem-solving on a scale that hasn’t been achieved before.
River Partners is up to the challenge and we hope you’ll join us.