Conservation Easement at Winje's Farm Conservation Easement

January 30, 2010

Winje’s Farm, additional species observed by Sue Thomas’ team

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 7:23 am

August 13, 2007 Sue Thomas wrote:

Hi Graham,

I’m glad to hear that Audubon is interested in supporting the Winje’s bid
for an easement! What a spectacular spot. Below is a note I sent
regarding my own opportunistic observations in the area. In addition,
Jim’s property is located on Lower Lake and is partially in easement
status.

Sue wrote:

Many thanks to the Winje’s and Jim for allowing us to access the lakes via
their properties. While there I made note of species observed and would
like to pass that information on for your records.

On the Winje’s property I saw up to 40 Morning Doves in the upper field and
I believe there are two prs of Sandhill Crane and one pr of Wilson’s Snipe
nesting on the property. Adjacent to the property, to the north and south,
I noted two prs of Long-billed Curlew acting very territorial. Also
adjacent to the property along the lake shore I consistently counted ~100
American Avocet, and 50-75 Willets. According to my opportunistic
sightings this section on the lake supported the highest count of Avocet
and Willet than any of the lakes in Surprise Valley. Snowy Plover,
Long-billed Curlew, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt are among the
top species of conservation concern according to the Intermountain West
Shorebird Conservation Plan and that this area appears to support a high
number of breeding plovers and avocets, I would highly recommend the
Winje’s property for the easement program.

I believe Jim’s property or some portion of it is currently under
easement. We counted approximately 45 Snowy Plovers, 160 Willet, 45
American Avocet, 2 Black-necked Stilt, and 6 Wilson’s Phalarope on the lake
bed on/adjacent to Jim’s property in one day. This accounted for the 2nd
highest count day for Snowy Plover throughout the Valley (the other was at
the northern portion of lower lake with 80 adults total). On the man-made
ponds and dugout, we had a great look at an American Bittern along with 2
Northern Shovelers, 5 Mallards, and 5 Blue-winged Teal. We also
encountered two Sandhill Crane nests on the lakebed (in reeds and on one of
the rock piles) that had both been depredated. The work that you have
accomplished on Jim’s property will undoubtedly support many migratory
birds throughout the year and you couldn’t ask for a nicer partner.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to conserving the land and
wildlife in this amazing area.

Cheers,
Sue

Sue Thomas
Regional Shorebird Biologist
USFWS – Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs

January 29, 2010

Audubon’s first visit to Winje’s Farm

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 7:29 am

Audubon visited our farm August 6th, 2007, represented by Graham Chisholm (Deputy State Director and Conservation Director, Audubon California) and Vance Russell (Director of Audubon California’s Landowner Stewardship Program) along with other Audubon members. Sophie Sheppard took the lead and showed the group our wetland, as Jan and I headed off on an appointment.

Graham wrote August 11th, to tell us about their visit:

“Dear Russell — Thanks for your note and background information. We all appreciated the opportunity to visit your farm. I have attached a list of bird species that we saw in our quick visit which doesn’t really do your farm justice.

I let Steve Clay know that Audubon would be interested in partnering with your WRP application and seeing how we could support your habitat restoration and public visitation program. Please share the same with NRCS and US Fish and Wildlife when they visit. My sense is that there is much that could be done to bring the stream channel back to a more natural meander through the fields with willows and cottonwoods. The lower field appears in great condition for support as a natural wetland down to the lakeshore.

I wish you all the best and hope you will keep me apprised of the upcoming agency visit so that I can interact with them from afar.

Best to you and Jan. Graham”

Location: Winje’s Farm

Audubon Observation date: 8/9/07
Notes: This was a quick visit birding around the main house and walking down along the riparian strip to the lake bed (dry).
Number of species: 14

Canada Goose 15
Turkey Vulture 5
Red-tailed Hawk 2
Sandhill Crane 2
Mourning Dove 4
Rufous Hummingbird 3
Warbling Vireo 1
American Robin 4
Sage Thrasher 2
European Starling 10
Yellow Warbler 1
MacGillivray’s Warbler 1
Brewer’s Sparrow 8
Western Meadowlark 4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org/california/)

Graham Chisholm
Deputy State Director &
Conservation Director
Audubon California

January 28, 2010

Sue Thomas of the USFWS, information and recommendation

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 5:22 am

In an email received June 22, 2007, Sue Thomas shared this information and her high recommendation of the Winje Farm for the easement program.

Sue Wrote:

Many thanks to the Winje’s and Jim for allowing us to access the lakes via
their properties. While there I made note of species observed and would
like to pass that information on for your records.

On the Winje’s property I saw up to 40 Morning Doves in the upper field and
I believe there are two prs of Sandhill Crane and one pr of Wilson’s Snipe
nesting on the property. Adjacent to the property, to the north and south,
I noted two prs of Long-billed Curlew acting very territorial. Also
adjacent to the property along the lake shore I consistently counted ~100
American Avocet, and 50-75 Willets. According to my opportunistic
sightings this section on the lake supported the highest count of Avocet
and Willet than any of the lakes in Surprise Valley. Snowy Plover,
Long-billed Curlew, American Avocet and Black-necked Stilt are among the
top species of conservation concern according to the Intermountain West
Shorebird Conservation Plan and that this area appears to support a high
number of breeding plovers and avocets, I would highly recommend the
Winje’s property for the easement program.

I believe Jim’s property or some portion of it is currently under
easement. We counted approximately 45 Snowy Plovers, 160 Willet, 45
American Avocet, 2 Black-necked Stilt, and 6 Wilson’s Phalarope on the lake
bed on/adjacent to Jim’s property in one day. This accounted for the 2nd
highest count day for Snowy Plover throughout the Valley (the other was at
the northern portion of lower lake with 80 adults total). On the man-made
ponds and dugout, we had a great look at an American Bittern along with 2
Northern Shovelers, 5 Mallards, and 5 Blue-winged Teal. We also
encountered two Sandhill Crane nests on the lakebed (in reeds and on one of
the rock piles) that had both been depredated. The work that you have
accomplished on Jim’s property will undoubtedly support many migratory
birds throughout the year and you couldn’t ask for a nicer partner.

Thank you all for your hard work and dedication to conserving the land and
wildlife in this amazing area.

Cheers,
Sue

Sue Thomas
Regional Shorebird Biologist
USFWS – Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs

January 27, 2010

Snowy Plover count update.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 11:29 am

June 22, 2007 Sue Thomas wrote, in part:
Hi All,
First, thank you very much for all of your help with the Snowy Plover
Survey at Surprise Valley and Honey Lake. Just wanted to pass on our
preliminary results. We counted 213 adults in Surprise Valley and 100
adults at Honey Lake over the span of two weeks. As you can see, we drove
our ATV into the ground…
Since we sampled both areas, the data we collected will be used to
extrapolate a total for each site. Regardless, these numbers are fairly
consistent with data collected in 1978 by Henderson and Page. At Honey
Lake they counted a total of 150 known adults (up to 208 if you include
unknown aged birds likely to be adults) and 340 adults at Surprise Valley.
They note that their counts were conducted in early to mid-July and likely
include early migrants or failed breeders from elsewhere.
Again, Thank You all for your help with this project! We plan to provide
the final results by mid winter along with a GIS-based database for those
interested in a spatial representation of the data. ……
Cheers,
Sue
Sue Thomas
Regional Shorebird Biologist
USFWS – Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs

January 26, 2010

The Snowy Plover potluck at the cottage.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 5:26 pm

Friday Evening, June 12, 2007, The Snowy Plover team arranged a pot Luck dinner to thank Sophie and Lyn for their involvement in the easement process.

The FWS group arrived without getting lost, and took over the cottage, while Sue took a room in our main house. As they set up for dinner, our guest. Dr. Peter F. Brussard (http://www.unr.edu/biology/brussard.htm) of Biodiversity fame at UNR arrived, followed by Laurie Sada, USFWS, and her husband, Dr. Don Sada (http://www.unr.edu/biology/sada.htm) of DRI fame. Various people from the USFS and BLM Cedarville offices joined as the evening progressed. Through the evening, both Don and Laurie Sada offered any help to assist in assessment process, which Jan and I appreciated.

I didn’t make a large presentation, but kept my statement mainly to a brief conversations that night, listening to the input from others around the table.

The next day I showed the survey team how to access the lake edge from our meadow, giving me a chance to share some information with Sue, Dan (FWS, Sacramento) and Mike (FWS Ventura) along with Kendra, (I think USFWS from Portland), and another couple from Alaska.

Sue would soon share her findings as they relate to our farm, and compared to the whole valley survey.

January 24, 2010

Snowy Plover Survey comes to Surprise Valley

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 7:09 am

The ball started to roll with an unexpected call from Sue Thomas of the USFWS, the team leader for a research team working their way up from Honey Lake, to the south in Lassen County, and targeting Surprise Valley to update a Snowy Plover survey.

I wrote on June 2, 2007, to Sue Thomas of the USFWS:

Dear Sue,

Nice to speak with you.
I have made up a JPEG for you which shows the approximate water level of
Upper Lake, along with a description of our property. Note the Vaugh Bench Mark in the
upper portion of section 30.

For your added information you can see our cottage and view some pictures at:
http://surprisevalley.us/bandb.html
My watershed management resume is on this page:
http://winjesenterprises.com/resume.html

Please feel free to contact us regarding any questions

Kind regards,
Russell Winje

Sue Thomas wrote June 3, 2007:

Thank you for the information Russ,

It certainly looks like the Upper Lake has a lot of habitat available.
Looks like it has water almost clear up to the seep/spring on the eastern
side – we are frantically working on locating an ATV to help with transport
around the lake.

Your cottage looks wonderful! I will check in to my office first thing
tomorrow to see if and when we can get check written to fees for the
cottage from the 8th through the 13th. If at all possible, I would like to
work that out. As soon as I find out if it is possible I will give you a
call back (no later than noon).

Again, thank you for helping us sort out where the water is in that upper
lake.

Cheers,
Sue

Sue Thomas
Regional Shorebird Biologist
USFWS – Migratory Birds and Habitat Programs

January 23, 2010

Winje’s Farm began the process through the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 7:03 am

Shortly before Christmas, on December 18th, 2006, Russell Winje followed up on a conversation with the Sheppard-Nardella Ranch in which the WRP process was brought up. With little to go on, he contacted the California Fish and Game in Alturas, who referred him to Steve Clay (Project Leader of the Modoc National Wildlife Refuge/USFWS) Alturas. Shortly there after, on December 20th , Steve responded, suggesting that he would discuss Winje’s proposed project on their farm with Loren Ruport (Private Lands Manager with the USFWS, Lower Klamath Basin National Wildlife Refuge Complex), as well as Richard Shinn (Wildlife Biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game) . Loren in turn contacted the NRCS to set up a site visit for the spring of 2007, to review putting a project together on Winje’s Farm. Doors began to open and seemingly unrelated names began to connect and exciting prospects seemed to be in the spotlight. On a warm and sunny spring day, and with much enthusiasm, Russell, Steve and Loren put on rubber boots and entered the future home of the Conservation Easement at Winje’s Farm.

January 22, 2010

Wetlands Reserve Program

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 8:42 am

From http://www.nrcs.usda.gov/PROGRAMS/wrp/

The Wetlands Reserve Program is a voluntary program offering landowners the opportunity to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands on their property. The USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) provides technical and financial support to help landowners with their wetland restoration efforts. The NRCS goal is to achieve the greatest wetland functions and values, along with optimum wildlife habitat, on every acre enrolled in the program. This program offers landowners an opportunity to establish long-term conservation and wildlife practices and protection.

January 21, 2010

Making a better home for migratory birds. Audubon California Fall 2009 Newsletter.

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 3:10 pm

From Page 7 of Audubon California Fall 2009 Newsletter

Continuing its work with landowners in one of California’s most ecologically important regions, Audubon California recently helped place a second conservation easement on a ranch in the Surprise Valley – located in the extreme northeastern corner of California.

The Winje Ranch rest along Upper Alkali Lake and contains important wet meadows, grassland, and riparian habitats that support a variety of bird species, including nesting Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Snipe, American Avocerts and dabbling ducks such as Gadwall, Mallard and teal.

“Russell and Jan Winje have an inspiring love of the land and the wildlife it supports, and we’re pleased that this passion prompted them to work with us to protect it well into the future,” said Graham Chisholm, Audubon California’s executive director.

This 62-acre conservation easement is the second in the Surprise Valley that Audubon California has completed in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS), the first easement (192 acres) on the nearby Sheppard-Nardella Ranch was completed a year ago. The easements are being placed on high quality wetland habitats important to nesting birds.

Despite its remoteness, Surprise Valley is beginning to see the type of rural subdivisions that is much more common in other parts of the state, and this could pose a significant threat to these important habitat areas in the coming decades.

The NRCS Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement will protect the ranch’s wetlands, and the owners have agreed to work with the NRCS and Audubon to restore vegetation to enhance the property’s values for birds and other wildlife.

January 20, 2010

Audubon teams with private landowners to protect bird habitat in Surprise Valley Important Bird Area

Filed under: Uncategorized — rnwinje @ 3:03 pm

Surprise Valley, Calif. – As part of its work with private landowners in one of California’s most remote, but nonetheless ecologically important regions, Audubon California recently helped place a second conservation easement on a ranch in the Surprise Valley – located in the extreme northeastern corner of California, bordering Oregon and Nevada.
The Winje Ranch rests along the shores of Upper Alkali Lake and contains important wet meadows, grassland, and riparian habitats that support a variety of bird species, including nesting Sandhill Crane, Long-billed Curlew, Wilson’s Phalarope, Wilson’s Snipe, American Avocets, and dabbling ducks such as Gadwall, Mallard and teal.
“The Winje Ranch is a gem of a property connecting Upper Alkali Lake with the Warner Mountains and a whole range of habitats, including rich wetlands,” said Graham Chisholm, Audubon California’s executive director. “Russell and Jan Winje have an inspiring love of the land and the wildlife it supports, and we’re pleased that this passion prompted them to work with us to protect it well into the future.”
This 62-acre conservation easement is the second in the Surprise Valley that Audubon California has completed in partnership with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS). The first easement (192 acres) on the nearby Sheppard-Nardella Ranch was completed a year ago. The easements are being placed on high quality wetland habitats important to nesting birds.
Despite its remoteness, Surprise Valley is beginning to see the type of rural subdivision that is much more common in other parts of the state, and this could pose a significant threat to these important habitat areas in the coming decades. Audubon California is interested in working with NRCS and Surprise Valley’s ranching families to find ways to help ensure that the valley’s wetlands and native pasture lands are conserved into the future. The Valley’s ranches provide important homes for numerous bird species, and Audubon California would like to support management that maintains ranching and birds.
The NRCS Wetland Reserve Program conservation easement will protect the Winje Ranch’s wetlands, and the owners have agreed to work with NRCS and Audubon to restore native willows and other vegetation to enhance the property’s values for birds and other wildlife.
“We pursued the easement on our farm for various reasons – the future of the wetland, public access for visitors to Surprise Valley, and the certain knowledge that this particular little piece of bird, plant and animal heaven will never be allowed to be a housing subdivision, or a strip mall,” said Jan Winje. “With the enthusiastic assistance of Audubon California, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and other agencies, we have achieved that dream.”
Surprise Valley is recognized as a globally significant Important Bird Area. It is home to a high diversity of bird species, including a large number of raptors, including Prairie Falcon, Swainson’s Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Golden Eagle, and Bald Eagle. In addition, the valley’s agricultural lands provide habitat for breeding Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Wilson’s Phalarope, Black Tern and, of course, Sandhill Crane.
About Audubon California
Audubon California is building a better future for California by bringing people together to appreciate, enjoy and protect our spectacular outdoor treasures. Audubon California is a field program of Audubon, which has more than 50,000 members in California and an affiliated 48 local chapters dedicated to protecting birds, wildlife and the habitats that support them.

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