California Native Plant Society

Conservation Program


CNPS maintains active programs to conserve California's wetlands and the rare and common native species that inhabit them. CNPS is concerned that the biological integrity of these resources is being compromised by fragmentation, degraded by incompatible adjacent land use, and lost through ill-advised mitigation practices. One of our greatest challenges of the early 2000's will be saving vernal pools and similar seasonal wetlands.

Vernal pool in Tehama County (photo by Carol Witham)

Issues Statement

Wetlands consist not only of the obvious river and lakes, but also the little seeps, springs, bogs, vernal pools and areas of high water table that support so much of the California flora. For centuries wetlands have been considered as nuisances, taking up room that could otherwise be occupied by "productive" farms and housing. They, and their attendant species of animals and plants, have been decimated by draining and filling. One of the greatest wetlands in North America, at the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley, has almost completely vanished, along with the millions of birds that used to live there. There used to be 4-5 million acres of wetland in the Central Valley, and by the mid-1980's only percent remained. Nationally we have lost over 122 million acres of wetland, and in a recent decade were still losing between 84,000 and 886,000 acres.

CNPS is committed to saving what remains. One of our greatest challenges is to save the species-rich vernal pools of the state. These ephemeral pools form in the winter and spring and are gone by summer, and support highly specialized and often very beautiful rings of flowers. Threats come from the growing urban uses and from agricultural conversion of rangeland to row crops and vineyards. Another environment at risk is the sycamore-dotted alluvial woodlands on the edges of the Central Valley which are rapidly being lost to gravel mining and to inundation under water projects.

CNPS is concerned about the effects of timber harvesting, cattle grazing, off-road vehicle use, and other forms of recreation on wetlands of our public lands, on invasive species such as Arundo and Salt cedar that have degraded wetland habitat, on the conservation of groundwater so that valued springs and wetlands do not dry up, and a host of other wetland related issues.

CNPS has prepared a Source Book of Wetland Information (137k, PDF). It is in a constant state of flux, as regulations come and go, and as wetland classification systems evolve over time. CNPS also has sponsored a scientific conference on vernal pools, and has active projects at the Chapter level to protect wetlands. For example, our Sequoia and Sacramento Valley Chapters are working hard to minimize the needless destruction of wetlands resulting from the poor site selection of the U.C. Merced campus.

Additional Information

CNPS web page on UC Merced

CNPS Statement of Policy - Wetlands

CNPS Policy on Appropriate Application of Ex Situ Conservation Techniques

CNPS Wetland Source Book 2000 (PDF, 137k)

Vernal Pool Ecosystems Conference Proceedings (1998 CNPS Press - out of print) available in PDF Format

Wetlands and Vernal Pools Web Links


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