A restored tidal marsh—into the breach! Cullinan Ranch Bay Nature


Jan 2016

An evening scene looking west across a flooded section of Cullinan Ranch soon after the levee had been breached. (Photo by Beth Huning, SF Bay Joint Venture)

Into the Breach

Paddlers and Ducks Return to Cullinan Ranch

by Paul McHugh on January 04, 2016 Bay Nature Magazine

A restored tidal marsh might be described as a primal mud pie, rich and fertile enough to sprout a meringue of fresh toppings. An array of native critters is then lured to the meal, where they proceed to feed, nest, roost, and breed as in ages past. The shoreline of San Francisco Bay’s northernmost lobe—called San Pablo Bay—has begun to dish out an ample buffet of such sites. The result is a swath of refreshed habitat that forms a major way station for waterfowl on the Pacific Flyway in the near term and will provide the Bay Area with one of its last, best chances for helping wildlife adapt to climate change and sea level rise over the long term. Cullinan Ranch, recently opened for public visitation as part of the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge, is a crucial link in the midst of this lush, gold-green arc of pickleweed, cordgrass, brush, and brackish water stretching from the broad estuary of the Petaluma River to the Napa River’s eastern bank. On a bright, clear Saturday morning in late September, three people drove out to Cullinan to savor the result of a decades-long effort to escort nature back onto tidelands where it had once reigned supreme. “Soon, this whole region will be a birding mecca,” predicted Megan Elrod, a field biologist with Point Blue Conservation Science, one of the groups that advised the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) on the Cullinan restoration. “This site is already on people’s radar. We just need the plants to take hold, the sloughs to form, and more public access points like this one.”…..

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