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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Putah Creek Council welcomes new stewardship members to their team

The new members will learn techniques to carry on the conservation work of the council for years to come 


By ZOE SMITH — city@theaggie.org


On Jan. 20, the Putah Creek Council welcomed new stewardship team members to their program through the first of two training sessions. The second training session’s date is yet to be determined but is projected to take place during the summer.

According to the Putah Creek Council Instagram page, @putahcreekcouncil, in the training, “new members will learn ecosystem restoration techniques, native plant identification, and hands-on fieldwork.” 

The Putah Creek Council is a conservation group that began in 1988 but wasn’t made official until the legal battle of the Putah Creek Accord. The Accord came from a lawsuit launched against Solano County Water Agency, Solano Irrigation District and other Solano entities that was won by the Putah Creek Council, the city of Davis and UC Davis. The settlement from that lawsuit and the law that was put in place protect the Putah Creek water flow and the native fish life.

Maddie Galal has been the stewardship team coordinator for the Putah Creek Council since Oct. 18, 2023. Before this, she got her degree from UC Santa Cruz in Environmental Studies. Galal shared what she will teach on the first training day.

“We’re going to go over our organization’s history and mission, some of our current restoration projects and our partners on those projects,” Galal said. “Then I’m going to talk about the logistics of being a stewardship member and how the stewardship team can help with the events. [We’ll go over] some tool safety, and communication tips for talking to the volunteers and managing them. We’re also going to do a brief training on how to plant a tree.”

In collaboration with local volunteers, the stewardship team has been able to do years of important restoration work in the Putah Creek Watershed, which is an area of 70 miles that starts at Cobb Mountain.   

Funding for the stewardship team comes from donors such as Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation, Yolo Resource Conservation District, Point Blue Conservation Science and the Center for Land-Based Learning, as well as work from the Putah Creek Council.  

“Our volunteer events are open for all community members, you do not have to be a part of the stewardship team to volunteer with most of our events,” Galal said. “We have nursery volunteer events, every Wednesday, that’s with the nursery team. They’ll do plant propagation, seeding and maintenance, or you can come out and join any of our other stewardship events. I typically have an event every Saturday […] like creek cleanups and plantings.”

Rick Hein is a retiree who has been a stewardship team member since 2002. Hein talked about the Putah Creek Accord and his time within the group.

“The creek essentially disappeared one year,” Hein said. “There was no creek because all the water had been diverted […] so this group of people got together. There was some discussion about what [they were] going to be called. Basically, they became the Putah Creek Council, and they sued the water department for water flow to maintain the habitat.” 

Fish like salmon and steelhead trout, which are both found in Putah Creek, need a fast flow of water to make it to the ocean. Due to the Putah Creek Council’s efforts, there is now a developed flow that allows these fish to spawn and thrive. 

“Seeing the salmon in the creek, that’s really rewarding,” Hein said. “A lot of this stuff has been done with an eye towards recreating historic habitats. One of the things that [were] in the creek was salmon, but there hadn’t been any in many decades [until] 10 years ago or so, it’s fairly recent, salmon started returning.”

According to Hein, it is due to the hard work of the Putah Creek Council that the fish flow has improved and the natural habitat has been restored.

“Thousands of salmon were in that creek,” Hein said. “I was just so proud that we did that. If we had not come along […] there would be no salmon.”

Liz Reay has been involved with the council for 15 years as a stewardship team member and is in her third year on the board of directors. On the board, Reay helps with fundraising, contributes to the operations monetarily and provides aid to the executive director when making decisions for the council.

“We do cleanups and grow native plants and plant them out there to help create a difference to really improve the local landscape and the local plant wildlife,” Reay said. “We provide an environment where people can go out on walks and really appreciate nature.”

When volunteers participate in habitat enhancement field days and native plant nursery work days, they get their hands dirty and gain knowledge on how to plant, prune, create irrigation and maintain the native land of Putah Creek. 

“It’s one of those things where when you start going to events, you meet a type of people or a group of people that you’d want to sit down and have a beer with and talk to for several hours,” Reay said. “These are the people that are concerned about the environment and want to help and want to really do things for the community. This is a superb group. It really is.” 


Written by: Zoe Smith  — city@theaggie.org



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