USDA Deputy Secretary Kathleen Merrigan and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe toured the Yolo Basin Wildlife Area to highlight and promote further dialogue on how agriculture can have a beneficial impact on local wildlife habitats, while providing essential income for the management and operation of California’s farms and ranches.

“This wildlife refuge is a model of how working lands can be in harmony with a healthy landscape,” said Merrigan. “America’s farmers have taken extraordinary steps to protect our nation’s natural resources because they know that land that remains in farming, pasture, or forest helps clean the water we drink, and the air all of us breathe.”

The 16,000-acre Yolo Basin Wildlife Area, managed by the California Department of Fish & Game, is one of the largest public/private restoration projects in the state with 3,700-acres of land in the Yolo Bypass floodway restored to wetlands. Covering 25 square miles and home to nearly 200 species of birds, the wildlife area is located in the heart of one of the country's richest agricultural areas, and alongside one of America's busiest metropolitan areas.

“The Yolo Basin Wildlife Area is an example of how wide-open spaces can support a healthy ecosystem, while contributing to our vibrant economy,” said Perciasepe. “By treating the land and water like a resource, working with nature rather than against it, the environment, the local wildlife, and California’s farmers and ranchers can all benefit.”

The Yolo Basin Foundation was founded in 1990 as a community-based organization to assist in the establishment of the Yolo Wildlife Area. The foundation initiated a working group in 1998 to assist with and resolve wildlife and resource issues. The working group includes federal, state and local government entities, wildlife and environmental partners, and numerous other stakeholders.

Many of the agricultural practices occurring in the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area provide compatible habitat for wildlife species. Rice is grown, flooded and harvested to provide food for thousands of waterfowl. Corn fields are grown and harvested to provide forage for geese and cranes, and other crops are grown specifically for wildlife forage purposes. Cattle are also present on the property.

The tour is part of a two-day trip by Merrigan and Perciasepe of local farms and conservation efforts in California to help foster an increased awareness for the importance and connectivity that agriculture and wildlife habitat have on our natural resources and food supply. This week, farms across America begin their annual harvest. American agriculture serves as the foundation for our food, feed, fiber, and fuel, and our agricultural producers help preserve our environment and drive our national economy. Meanwhile, American agriculture is responsible for one out of every 12 jobs and has enjoyed a trade surplus for nearly 50 years with this year’s surplus expected to exceed $30 billion dollars.