River Partners' mission is to create wildlife habitat for the benefit of people and the environment.

    
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River Partners receives award for restoration work

Chico Enterprise-Record - July 17, 2007

By Heather Hacking, staff writer

River Partners, a Chico-based nonprofit that works in habitat restoration, was given a James Irvine Leadership award Monday.

River Partners president John Carlon and senior restoration ecologist Tom Griggs were selected based on the foundation's values of conserving wildlife and enhancing flood control along major rivers in California.

The group began in 1998, at first focusing on restoration along the Sacramento River, and later expanding to the San Joaquin River. Over time, River Partners has experienced an expansion of reputation and knowledge of how restorations funding and implementation works. The group now does work on other waterways, including the Merced, Tuolumne, Feather, Bear and Stanislaus rivers.

Carlon, who accepted the award in Sacramento Monday, said that at the beginning of the Gold Rush, the Central Valley had 900,000 acres of riverside habitat, which flooded frequently and supported about 300 species.

By 2007, 800,000 acres of that has disappeared, with most of the flood plains paved over or cleared.

Since creation, River Partners has planted approximately 750,000 trees, shrubs and plants, Carlon said.

The founders of the group were farmers, and brought that background to the restoration work. It's not enough just to plant habitat; care needs to be made to ensure the plantings have a long life and continue to serve the purpose for which they were placed in the ground, according to a background given on the group's Web site.

The Irvine Foundation set up the acknowledgment, which includes a $125,000 award, to help publicize groups that are working on "key state concerns using practical solutions." The hope is that other private and nonprofit groups will see the accomplishments of the groups honored, and learn from them, a spokesperson said.

Six awards were given throughout the state, including honors to groups that work with education, theater and sustainable dairy production.

Carlon and Griggs were the only recipients from the Central Valley.

During a brief address during the presentation, Carlon said the goal is to balance the needs of wildlife with safety and economic needs in the state.

River Partners board member Irv Schiffman said the award is an honor, and will also help to spread the word about the good work the nonprofit does.

"The work we do is so scientifically organized," Schiffman said. "We're not just throwing rocks in the river." He explained that River Partners does pre-project modeling work, analyzes agricultural land near restoration projects and ensures plantings will attract wildlife and help clean up rivers.

"We would like more organizations to know about us so when it comes to flood protection and when it comes to a different way to design flood projects, they will think of our scientific approach," Schiffman said. The work of the group is in high demand already, and Schiffman said the board and staff are intent on keeping the high quality of restoration as the top priority.

Julie Pokrandt, director of development for River Partners, explained that the $125,000 will be used to help the group do the background work and assessments for future projects.

About 20 percent of the money will be used for staff development, which is the wish of the Irvine Foundation.

After the morning award ceremony, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger met with the recipients to personally congratulate them. #