River Partners at 20

UN’s Decade on Restoration and our running head start

River Partners 20th anniversary coincides with the recently-declared United Nations’  “Decade on Ecosystem Restoration,” a massive international scaling effort, “to fight the climate crisis and enhance food security, water supply and biodiversity.”

After two decades, River Partners tallies the millions of native trees, shrubs and grasses we have planted on 11,000 acres of restored floodplains – a lifeline for endangered and threatened species that will soon be the size of Manhattan.

Our efforts have scored major victories: fragile species returning to our projects, in areas where they have not been sighted in decades or more:

View highlights of our history of path-breaking restoration

Endangered and threatened species recovered on River Partners projects include (from top left): riparian brush rabbit; Least Bell’s vireo; chinook salmon; valley elderberry longhorn beetle; riparian woodrat; Swainson’s hawk; arroyo toad; monarch butterfly; and numerous bee species.

Over the past 20 years, River Partners has pioneered a process for converting flood-prone fields into thriving, self-supporting forests in just three years.

River Partners is now urgently applying our tested model to confront leading impacts of climate change. We are scaling up our efforts, knowing there is a steep price to pay for hesitation.

Our restored floodplain forests capture floodwaters and protect surrounding farms and communities from catastrophic flooding, while sheltering diverse wildlife including mammals, amphibians, fish, birds and pollinators whose habitat is threatened elsewhere. Our restored river forests also conserve precious freshwater that will become more scarce in the future.

By turning over our projects to public ownership, River Partners has helped to build some major conservation areas in California since 1998, including the Sacramento River National Wildlife Refuge, the San Joaquin River National Wildlife Refuge, many California State Wildlife Areas and Ecological Reserves, and several California State Parks.

What is more, our work strengthens rural, often disadvantaged communities. Local nurseries grow the hundreds of thousands of native plants needed on our projects, and we employ our workforces from neighboring communities, as well as through the California Conservation Corps and accredited Regional Conservation Corps. To date, our efforts in the San Joaquin Valley have brought over $56 million in competitive grants to Stanislaus County alone, and over 320,000 labor hours for Central Valley residents.

A crescendo of scientific and public support now stems from the practices River Partners has championed for two decades:

  • On April 29, 209, Governor Newsom signed a Water Resilience Executive order prioritizing natural infrastructure such as floodplains and forests, that deliver multiple benefits for our environment and growing population.
  • California’s visionary 2017 Central Valley Flood Protection Plan says we need expanded floodplains like Dos Rios Ranch to prepare for the impacts of a warming climate.
  • Highly-publicized studies have shown restored forests can offset up to 21% of annual US greenhouse gas emissions.
  • California’s restoration industry is supplying thousands of reliable and engaging jobs for expert scientists, conservation farmers, young adults and recent migrants.
  • Recovery of a list of endangered species in California relies directly upon our restoration work in partnership with public agencies and experts.

We are seeking new partners to join with us to accelerate the return of floodplains to their natural connection to the river, enhance their flood protection qualities, and restore their ecosystems for the benefit of people and wildlife. Contact us to learn more and help us scale up our ambitious next decade of ecosystem restoration.


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About River/Shift

River Partners is helping lead a shift in how we restore floodplains and re-value our river forests. River/Shift shares the latest developments on the restoration projects, advances in science and technology, and partnerships that are bringing life back to rivers to benefit the ecosystems, economies and communities of California.

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Solutions at scale are more urgently needed than ever. We welcome you to learn more about our projects near your community, contact us with partnership and strategic restoration opportunities, or support our work.