The California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s new Delta Conservation Framework tries to fill the vision vacuum left by former Governor Brown’s early pivot away from the 2013 Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, a plan that touched in some shape or way on 160,000 acres of the Delta. “It was too big and too unwieldy for people to manage, and there were too many questions about its effects, and how it would be implemented – particularly as it related to the Delta as a unique place,” says the agency’s Carl Wilcox. In 2016, with the help of the Delta Conservancy, CDFW held a series of workshops with landowners, agencies, biologists and others to define new conservation goals and strategies in light of existing plans and programs, as well as the latest science on effective ecosystem restoration. During the process the scope moved away from top-down government targets to how to grow conservation organically from the people and local communities that live-side-by-side with the species everyone is trying to save. This seems to fall in line with new governor Gavin Newsom’s focus on equity and local engagement in plans for the state’s future. Whatever that future, the Delta – as the nexus point of California’s water supply, economy, and remnant estuarine ecosystems – promises to remain center stage. This Framework offers tools, checklists, and strategies for making sure the outcome is reasonably sustainable for all – whether fish, fowl or farm.

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Haggles over the what, where, and when of Delta conservation got a reset this January with the state’s release of a new collaborative framework focused on opportunities, not species. The California Department of Fish & Wildlife’s new Delta Conservation Framework tries to fill the vision vacuum left by former Governor Brown’s early pivot away from the 2013 Bay-Delta Conservation Plan, a plan that touched in some shape or way on 160,000 acres of the Delta. “It was too big and too unwieldy for people to manage, and there were too many questions about its effects, and how it would be implemented – particularly as it related to the Delta as a unique place,” says the agency’s Carl Wilcox. In 2016, with the help of the Delta Conservancy, CDFW held a series of workshops with landowners, agencies, biologists and others to define new conservation goals and strategies in light of existing plans and programs, as well as the latest science on effective ecosystem restoration. During the process the scope moved away from top-down government targets to how to grow conservation organically from the people and local communities that live-side-by-side with the species everyone is trying to save. This seems to fall in line with new governor Gavin Newsom’s focus on equity and local engagement in plans for the state’s future. Whatever that future, the Delta – as the nexus point of California’s water supply, economy, and remnant estuarine ecosystems – promises to remain center stage. This Framework offers tools, checklists, and strategies for making sure the outcome is reasonably sustainable for all – whether fish, fowl or farm.

About the author

Ariel Rubissow Okamoto is both today’s editor-in-chief and the founding editor of ESTUARY magazine (1992-2001). She enjoys writing in-depth, silo-crossing stories about water, restoration, and science. She’s a co-author of a Natural History of San Francisco Bay (UC Press 2011), frequent contributor of climate change stories to Bay Nature magazine, and occasional essayist for publications like the San Francisco Chronicle. In other lives, she has been a vintner, soccer mom, and waitress. She lives in San Francisco close to the Bay with her architect husband Paul Okamoto.