What is Valley needlegrass grassland, and why are agencies interested in conserving it?
Throughout California, native grasslands are estimated to provide habitat for 90% of the state’s rare and endangered species. Prior to European colonization, native needlegrass species (such as purple needlegrass, nodding needlegrass, and foothill needlegrass) dominated the Central Valley; today, less than 1% of former Valley needlegrass grasslands remain. Mature needlegrasses have been found to live up to a century and can have roots up to 20 feet deep. The deep roots of these species contribute to erosion control, water infiltration, nutrient cycling, and carbon sequestration. Unlike nonnative annual grasses that now dominate the landscape, needlegrasses grow in bunches, leaving empty spaces in-between where native wildflowers flourish.
Impacts to Valley needlegrass grassland often require mitigation
On occasion, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) is requiring mitigation plans for the preservation and restoration of Valley needlegrass grassland as a component of permitting. Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation plans may also be required during the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) process.
In addition, general erosion control and restoration plans required for many projects can be tailored towards the goal of restoring Valley needlegrass grassland. ECORP has experienced staff biologists to handle needlegrass mitigation requirements; for example, ECORP biologist Taraneh Emam recently published a peer-reviewed research article discussing needlegrass restoration methods in the journal Restoration Ecology. ECORP is currently preparing Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation and restoration plans for projects within the 3,500-acre Folsom Plan Area Specific Plan.
ECORP’s New Services
ECORP now provides services related to Valley needlegrass grassland mitigation, from the initial stages of field surveys and impact assessments through the preparation of mitigation and restoration plans. Mitigation measures often place an emphasis on using locally collected seed, and collection of seed from impact areas both conserves needlegrass diversity and helps increase the likelihood of successful restoration. Therefore, to support Valley needlegrass mitigation, ECORP is now offering the service of needlegrass seed collection from project impact areas for use during restoration.
Please contact Taraneh Emam at (916) 782-9100 (Northern California), or Josh Corona-Bennett at (858) 279-4040 (Southern California) for more information on Valley needlegrass mitigation requirements and strategies.