Distribution of wildlife is determined by the distribution and variety of vegetative communities, water, and available food. Urban growth within the District has put pressure on remaining areas suitable for wildlife. Direct loss of habitat, the diversion of streams for municipal water supplies, increased effluent discharge, and intensified recreational use of open space has adverse impacts on wildlife populations.
Here are some of the ways the RCRCD works to protect native species:
- Provide BMP information and assistance to land users to assist with habitat management.
- Promote exotic, invasive species control and removal from landscaping.
- Propagate and release Southern California native fish, aquatic reptiles, and amphibians, as funding becomes available.
- Develop the “Greenbelt” research facility with fish raceways plus indoor/ outdoor tank storage for quarantine, and short term fish and amphibian care
- Create appropriate habitats at RCRCD facilities to support native wildlife.
- Install nest boxes and watering facilities in RCRCD habitat areas as needed.
- Install wildlife cameras at RCRCD facilities, corridor crossings and select nest boxes to monitor local wildlife.
The RCRCD conducts a variety of restoration and research projects in an effort to increase fish and amphibian populations in their native ranges, mainly in the Santa Ana River Watershed. Native fish and amphibian species are impacted by loss or degradation of stream habitat, water pollution, drought, non-native fish and aquatic animals, flood control structures, water diversions, sand and gravel mining, and changes in the watershed that result in erosion, sediment, and debris flows.
In an effort to help reduce impacts to important aquatic and riparian environments, the District has a permitted and specialized aquatic program that is able to:
• restore aquatic habitats
• transport and translocate native fish and amphibians
• capture, propagate, and monitor native fish in local waterways
• conduct research
• remove non-native exotic species (red-eared sliders, bullfrogs, clawed frogs, bass, etc.).
The RCRCD also provides emergency watershed rescue of fish and amphibians, such as after fire. For removal of non-native species, the District is equipped with watercraft, seins, and electro-shock tools and works in cooperation with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife and US Fish and Wildlife Service. The District also has permits with both the USFWS and CDFW for the monitoring and management of fish populations and habitats.
Augmentation of native fish populations is conducted through the Upper Santa Ana River Habitat Conservation Plan and agreements with local water districts, the US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS).
Western Monarch butterflies make a spectacular annual migration of up to 1,500 miles to overwinter in forested groves along the coast of California, but even these stalwart travelers need our help in Inland Southern California.
On the Brink of Extinction
Sadly, the Western Monarch butterfly population has been drastically declining over the last few decades. In 2020 the number of individuals reached, the lowest level ever recorded: less than 1% of historic populations. The Riverside-Corona Resource Conservation District is working to reverse these trends, and we need the community’s help.
Why the Shocking Decline?
· Loss of Native Milkweed: Milkweed is the only food source for the Monarch caterpillar, and much of it has been destroyed due to land being converted from habitat to agricultural or urban use.
· Pesticide Exposure: Monarchs are weakened and killed unintentionally by toxic weed and insect killers.
· Drought and Climate Change impact milkweed growth and habitat availability.
· Disease: Many nurseries sell tropical milkweed which does not go dormant in winter. This tropical milkweed can host a parasite called Ophryrocystis elektroscirrha, or "OE" that weakens and kills Monarchs.
· Coastal Habitat Loss: Coastal overwintering sites have been degraded or developed, leaving few trees that provide for quality roosting sites. Monarchs need tall trees like Eucalyptus, Monterey pine, and Cypress that provide filtered sunlight for warmth and protection from wind.
Come to the Rescue!
Plant Native Milkweed: Locally, adult Monarchs lay their eggs on Narrow Leaf Milkweed, Asclepias fascicularis. The caterpillars grow rapidly, increasing their weight almost 3,000 times in 10-15 days. The flowers also provide nectar for adult butterflies. Native milkweed will go dormant around Halloween and re-emerge around Valentine’s Day. Don’t weed it out if it appears dead. Learn more at Steps for Success with Milkweed and Monarchs for Inland Southern California Valleys: https://www.rcrcd.org/files/65eb89ba5/2020_Monarch_Milkweed_for_SoCal.pdf
Eliminate Pesticides: Use nontoxic alternatives for pest control. https://www.rcrcd.org/files/92cdf50b3/Natural+Pest+Control.pdf
Grow Flowering Plants, especially natives that provide nectar in early Spring and Fall. Avoid planting tropical milkweed.
Track Monarchs: Please avoid captive rearing and instead collect and post data online at the Western Monarch Milkweed Mapper and iNaturalist websites. Be on the lookout for the four life stages: egg, caterpillar, pupa and adult.
- Steps for Success with Milkweed and Monarchs for the Inland Southern California Valleys: https://www.rcrcd.org/files/65eb89ba5/2020_Monarch_Milkweed_for_SoCal.pdf
- Plan Your Pollinator Paradise: https://www.rcrcd.org/files/9abe75d28/pollinator+garden+handout+web22.pdf
- KFRG radio interview: RCRCD helps endangered monarch butterflies (audacy.com)
- KFRG PSA: https://www.facebook.com/RCRCD/videos/3277184345929139/
- LandUse Learning Center (flyer and location map) near downtown Riverside, for seeing pollinator garden: https://www.rcrcd.org/files/80c9e10c5/llcflyer2023.pdf
- RCRCD embarked on a Monarch Recovery program in 2019: https://www.rcrcd.org/files/cc88913ce/City+Council+Mayor%27s+Monarch+Challenage+Implementation+Report.pdf
The Monarch Recovery Project wouldn’t be successful without broad community engagement, plus state and national support.
Please help us increase Monarch populations: The 2023 Pollinator Week is coming June 19-25: Pollinator Week Toolkit | Pollinator.org .
Efforts of the RCRCD:
In Spring of 2020, the RCRCD received a grant from the Wildlife Conservation Board and the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts, to establish 2 acres of Monarch breeding and foraging habitat. In addition, funds were allocated towards community education on the plight and conservation efforts related to Western Monarchs.
Once millions of Monarch Butterflies would overwinter on the Pacific West Coast but their population has been on a drastic decline since the 1980's. In the winters of 2018 and 2019, just 30,000 monarchs were counted at overwintering sites. This drastic decline is due many factors including loss of habitat, pesticide use and climate change. With the population at just 1% of it's historic size, is is now critical to take the appropriate actions to support Monarch populations.
We have a long uphill battle to save the Monarch, but through community education and outreach, partnerships and conservation efforts, the RCRCD will continue to strengthen our endeavors. Despite the hurdles we faced with the Covid-19 pandemic, we have planted native milkweed and nectar plants at our 2 acre site in Riverside. This will be an on-going effort. It is our hope that not only will this provide critical foraging and breeding habitat to Monarch butterflies, but that it will be an educational resource for the entire community.
Get involved:Monarch Survey Flyer Spring 2023.pdf
Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)
The Western Riverside County Multi Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) is a unified plan that guides development and provides for economic growth while protecting local habitats for native plants and animals. In the 1980s-1990s a growing number of endangered species was slowing urbanization. Through a lengthy stakeholder process and environmental evaluation, a comprehensive approach was developed to protect our unique landscapes and wildlife while expediting development. The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) was created to steward the Plan, or MSHCP. The RCRCD was part of the process that developed the plan, and the monitoring biologists for the MSHCP are housed in building C at the RCD’s headquarters: the Resource Conservation Center. The RCRCD conducts habitat conservation projects that support and complement the Plan.