FRLT explores a multi-use ethic that includes limited hunting at the Sierra Valley Preserve

For the last two winters, from mid-November to the first week of February, the Feather River Land Trust (FRLT) has worked with a local group of waterfowl hunters to run a trial waterfowl hunting program on the Sierra Valley Preserve. The Sierra Valley Preserve is a 2,500-acre contiguous property in the northern part of Sierra Valley near Beckwourth that is owned and managed by the Land Trust. Since 2003, FRLT has worked with conservation partners, donors, agencies, foundations, and volunteers to purchase and manage the properties that make up the preserve with the goal of protecting and improving wildlife habitat, protecting wetlands and water quality, and providing public access to this beautiful and unique part of our region.

The wetlands found on the Sierra Valley Preserve provide excellent habitat, forage, and breeding grounds for a variety of waterfowl. The properties that make up the Preserve have been hunted, with permission from the previous land owners, by generations of people from the area. 

Sunrise over the wetlands at the Sierra Valley Preserve

A waterfowl hunter's view--sunrise on the wetlands of Sierra Valley. Photo by Dave Valle.

A Trial Hunt Project--Volunteers and FRLT's Stewardship Department work together

In 2017, the Land Trust initiated a trial hunt on the preserve as part of a larger effort to understand desired public use and related land management efforts. Waterfowl hunting was limited to approximately 500 acres of the preserve with set days, staff oversight, and volunteers from the Sierra Valley Waterfowlers group.

During the 2018-19 season, FRLT partnered with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the local Waterfowlers group for five weekends of public access hunting through the Shared Habitat Alliance for Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) program, a low-cost lottery system that was open to the public. Five hunters from various parts of Northern California joined local hunters who volunteered as expert guides to experience the cold, ice, sunshine, wind, and expansive beauty of Sierra Valley.

 Dave Valle, a member of the volunteer Sierra Valley Waterfowlers group and retired Portola High School teacher, stated “a hunting experience such as this encourages a unique connection to the land, the wildlife, and encourages wildlife protection and stewardship".

Engaging Local Youth and Families

FRLT staff and the Waterfowlers group also organized a local Youth Hunt with 6 students ranging in ages 12-17 accompanied by guardians, who experienced a bitterly cold and wet hunt on stormy February 2nd. Johnny Pini, age 16 of Quincy, sent a letter of gratitude to the Land Trust, stating, “although my hunt wasn’t as successful as I hoped, the fact that I was allowed to hunt on this land in Sierra Valley was very special.” He went on to say, “I appreciate that there was a limited number of hunters that went out together, not only for the safety aspect but for waterfowl conservation as well.” Read the full letter from Johnny.

Local young hunters at the Sierra Valley Preserve in 2018

Waterfowl and Wetland Birds

As part of this trial hunting program, FRLT is drawing on the expertise and guidance of the Land Trust’s founder, Paul Hardy, a wildlife biologist, to monitor species of waterfowl and other wetland birds using the preserve before, during, and after hunting. This research goes hand in hand with hunting logs that each hunter is required to keep for each day they access the property. These data will allow FRLT to better understand what species are utilizing the wetlands during the hunting season, the behavior, numbers, and habitat use of each species, and the implications of hunting on FRLT’s goals, which include protecting the habitat, wildlife, and cultural connection to the lands in the headwater valleys of the Feather River Region. These data will also be compared to a long-term data set on wildlife use that has been collected by the Land Trust and biologists from Plumas Audubon Society.

FRLT is a local non-profit conservation organization that offers a variety of public recreation opportunities on conserved lands--from the Olsen Barn Meadow in Chester to the Sierra Valley Preserve. For a list of public events including birding, botanizing, stargazing and more, visit www.frlt.org/events.

The hunting season is now closed, but for more information on the trial hunting program, please contact Gabe Miller, Stewardship Director. Feather River Land Trust relies on the generous support of volunteers and partner organizations, like the Sierra Valley Waterfowlers group, to care for the lands they own and manage.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Young hunters enjoying a sunny day in 2018. Photo by Dave Valle

Monday, February 18, 2019