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Wetlands Restoration Program Sees Record Year In California

Aired 6/4/12 on KPBS News.

A federal program to restore wetlands added a record amount of land in California last year. Landowners voluntarily participated to protect more than 18 square miles of wetland.

Since its start two decades ago, the Wetlands Reserve Program has restored one-fourth of California's wetlands. It pays farmers and ranchers who voluntarily set aside - and in some cases replant - land that has historically been natural wetland.

Dean Kwaznee is with the Natural Resources Conservation Service, which administers the program. He said it's restored wetlands in nearly every county in the state.

"So we've done- tidal marsh restoration, mountain meadow-- done projects along san Joaquin river."

Marla DeDomenico-Bleecher and her family recently enrolled 4,500 acres of ranch land south of Sacramento. The addition of her family land joins together several protected areas, creating about 32 square miles of grassland vernal pools - possibly the largest in the state.

She said not only are they protecting unique habitat and wildlife but the NRCS program allows them to continue to graze cattle on the land.

"Because they discovered that they need the cattle to graze down the areas in the vernal pool, otherwise grasses take over."

In addition to preserving habitat, expanding the wetlands helps downstream homes by retaining flood water in high-water years.

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