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Campesino permaculture can save delta smelt from extinction

by Monoculture agribusiness is greatest threat! Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 2:39 PM

The major reason delta smelt face extinction is overuse of Sacramento Rio agua by agribusiness. Campesino permaculture, intercropping and polyculture teaches us how to reduce rio agua use and could save the smelt if applied soon!

Background on Delta Smelt from Save the Bay

B. Moose Peterson/USFWS

The Delta smelt is a small fish endemic to the Sacramento-San Joaquin Estuary. Typically 2 to 3 inches long, Delta smelt need fresh water and brackish habitat in order to survive and reproduce. The Delta smelt has a steely blue sheen on its sides and an adipose fin, which is a small fleshy fin on the back between its dorsal fin and tail, and seems almost translucent. Smelts live together in schools and feed on zooplankton.

Smelt adults live for just one year. The fish begin as larvae in the fresh water of the lower San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers. When the cold rushing waters pour down from the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the larvae break free from their shallow nursery. They float downstream towards Suisun Bay until they reach saltier water. The majority of growth for the smelt is within the first seven to nine months of its life. Adult smelt live in Suisun Bay until the following year when they make their return journey upstream to lay their eggs.

The smelt’s short life span and need for both brackish and fresh water habitat make it an environmentally-sensitive species. When few fish reproduce successfully during a year, or consecutively over several years, the population plummets. The smelt’s numbers have remained extremely low for the past 20 years due to several factors, including low fresh water flows, the increase in non-native species in the Delta and the increase in toxins.

This fish was listed as a threatened species on both the state and Federal endangered species lists in 1993 and, in the following year, the population trend survey indicated that the population was at its lowest point in the 26 years of the survey. Over the past three years, Delta Smelt populations have continued to fall to dramatic lows.

In January 2005, state and federal authorities, including the state and federal Fish and Game departments, the Environmental Protection Agency and the federal Bureau of Reclamation, set aside $2 million to analyze existing data and gather new information on the decline of the Delta Smelt. The hope is to find a solution for keeping this small but mighty fish alive and well in its native home.

Photo: from the website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Try campesino permaculture; intercropping w/ hedgerows, oaks & use less rio agua for agriculture consumption por favor!

Getting plantation agribusiness to reduce water consumption will certainly alleviate problems faced by delta smelt and other Sacto/San Joaquin riparian species. How to get plantation agribusiness to reduce water consumption is a problem for people everywhere. Then there's the suburban sprawl lawn culture that sucks up water in additional large quantities. Need we mention thinned out golf course lawns as especially thirsty??

One possible alternative to plantation agribusiness is a campesino style permaculture farm that uses interstory crops of varied height to reduce evaporation potential from monoculture rows. Certain foods can be planted together in rows, though using a diversity of plants together is more desireable. An example appropriate to the CA great valley flatlands would be the three sisters; maize (corn, non-GMO!), beans and squash..

"Three Sisters Gardens

Corn, beans, and squash have a unique symbiotic relationship in a Native American garden. Corn offers a structure for the beans to climb. The beans, in turn, help to replenish the soil with nutrients. And the large leaves of squash and pumpkin vines provide living mulch that conserves water and provides weed control. This ancient style of companion planting has played a key role in the survival of all people in North America. Grown together these crops are able to thrive and provide high-yield, high-quality crops with a minimal environmental impact.

Mardi Dodson - ATTRA"

more 3 sisters @;

Yardspace can use the same concept, lawns are fine for walkways through gardens, but large monoculture lawns really soak up great amounts of agua during summer months! Try not having uninterrupted lawns unless it is a shared community sports field. Other than we can encourage our neighbors in suburbia to plant variations of drought tolerant or native edible plants in their yards. The people from Food Not Lawns have shown their creative potential is unlimited!!

Even in the nearly horizontal sloped central valley, these principles also apply;

"Keyline Principles

Insure the rapid application and infiltration of water to the landscape, while paying close attention to salinity, over saturation and related problems. This is achieved by improving soil structure and the strategic use of terraces, swales and ponds.

Use specific pattern cultivation methods that combine soil aeration and water control.

Choose earth moving principles that are economical and effective. Making the least change for the greatest effect.

Our goal is to make the greatest use of the water as it flows through the land. Things to consider are: How many ways can I use the water before it leaves the site? (washing-irrigation-aqua-culture-irrigation) What is the longest route that the water can take through the site?

Key Points

Every watershed has a primary key point. This point is the interface between collection and distribution, and is characterized as the point where the ridge meets the valley. Where springs flow together to form a stream, or where water infiltrated into the top of a ridge resurfaces, are key points. Key points are good places to begin our collection and distribution systems. Typically, surface water above the primary key point is potable quality, and the water below it is nutrient carrying and is best used for irrigation and infiltration to charge the water table.

Most of us live farther down the watershed and are unable to steward the primary key point in our landscapes. However, a watershed will encompass several key points. Secondary key points can be found at slope changes in stream beds or where two streams converge- anywhere that water is concentrated. For those of us in urban settings, the key point we work with in the "watershed" of our yards could be the point where our rain water converges into a cistern."

entire article @;

In the Sacto/SanJo valley ecosystem, valley oak trees are greatly needed! Oaks have evolved to the hot dry summers and cool damp winters, and acorns are great for either livestock or human consumption following proper leaching of tannic acids..

Oak Woodlands and Savannahs- The Forgotten Acorn Orchards-Experience and participate in the restoration of vanishing oak habitats. Learn restoration thinning techniques and how to use prescribed fire to invigorate oak woodland health and increase plant and wildlife diversity. Learn how to process acorns in a traditional way as a main food staple for our regional diet.

how to restore valley oaks @;

Indigenous peoples of the Sacto/SanJo valley have relied on acorns as nutricious food source for centuries, so why not help the modern day Pomo, Wintu, and others who continue to maintain their cultural tradition of acorn collection! There aren't a great deal of valley oaks remaining, and the shade they provide is crucial for cooling and adding moisture to the central valley ecosystem. Migrant farmworkers are also glad when the shade of an oak tree is available for a needed break from the heat. Overworked migrants suffer from heatstroke from being out in open sunlight for too many hours. Growers who care for their migrant workers would consider planting valley oaks as shade trees along hedgerows. Oak tree islands are great if surrounded by crops, they provide a perch for raptors who keep the rodent population at bay. Under the oak tree exists a cooler microclimate that shelters small animals and pollinators..

In Davis, the Community Alliance with Family Farms (CAFF) is encouraging regional growers to implement hedgerows;

"CAFF Program Goals

Reduction of sedimentation transport by using vegetative buffers to slow agricultural run-off into streams and waterways.

Reduction of stream and waterway nutrient loading by increasing nutrient uptake with native plant hedgerows and buffer strips.

Reduction of pesticide use by increasing beneficial insect populations with flowering hedgerows and increasing reliance on biological pest control methods.

Increase overall ecological diversity by improving habitat for plant and animal species."

article @;

this is along the same lines of farming wild;

from above site;

"For more than a decade, Charlie, his brothers Bruce and Rick, and their father, former Deputy Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Richard Rominger have been restoring habitats on their commercial farm northwest of Winters. They’ve planted hedgerows of native grasses, shrubs, and trees as living borders between fields. Levee banks and roadsides have been revegetated and help control weeds and filter runoff. Rice fields are flooded following the harvest season to help decay rice straw and to provide important habitat for waterfowl. And numerous ponds have been constructed to filter irrigation water, capture winter rain, and provide essential wetland habitat for native terrestrial species, as well as birds migrating along the Great Pacific Flyway."

People in LA remember the southcentral campesino farm. This model of polyculture could be restored and also duplicated elsewhere to provide humans with healthy food and also reduce consumption of rio agua, thus allowing the delta smelt enough fresh water to survive!!

Por favor, visit southcentral farm @;

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extra delta smelt extinction risk info upcoming lawsuit under CA's ESA Friday, May. 25, 2007 at 2:51 PM
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