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News.bytesNews.bytes Extra, issue 430

New viewing platform at Atwell Island wetlands

On April 30 the Tulare Lake Basin Working Group hosted a ribbon cutting at the Bureau of Land Management’s Atwell Island Restoration Project to celebrate the opening of a wildlife viewing platform in the Ton Tache Wetlands. (text continues below)

Two men cut a red ribbon at the entrance to a wooden boardwalk
Karl Kraft and Steve Laymon, BLM natural resource specialists, cut the ribbon at the viewing platform dedication.

“The viewing platform will provide the public with an excellent access point to view wildlife in the newly-constructed wetlands,” said Steve Laymon, BLM Atwell manager. Constructed with the assistance of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and largely built by an AmeriCorps crew, the platform provides a focal point for the wetlands.

The Ton Tache Wetlands, built on the site of a historic but long-since drained lake, were designed and constructed by the NRCS, with assistance from the Bureau of Reclamation and the Tulare Basin Wildlife Partners, on land donated to the BLM. The project is but one component of the successful habitat restoration efforts at Atwell Island, he said.

Atwell Island is located within the southeastern portion of now-drained Tulare Lake which as recently as 100 years ago was the largest freshwater lake west of the Mississippi River. The lake has been dry for many years, with its water now stored behind foothill dams and used for agriculture. The Central Valley Project Improvement Act of 1992 authorized a land retirement program to reduce the accumulation of drain water and lessen problems associated with its disposal.

The BLM now owns and manages Atwell Island which consists of 7,000 acres located just south of Alpaugh, Tulare County, and is situated near the Pixley National Wildlife Refuge, Kern National Wildlife Refuge and Allensworth State Historic Park.

The BLM is restoring native valley grassland, a wetland, and alkali sink habitats on an area that for the past century was covered by fields of cotton, oats, and alfalfa. Atwell Island is currently home to federally listed and sensitive animal species including mountain plover, Tipton's kangaroo rat, and the San Joaquin kit fox, tricolored blackbird, burrowing owls, horned lizards, and the blunt-nosed leopard lizard.

A wood boardwalk leads through wetlands grasses to a viewing platform over the water

- David Christy, BLM Central California District, 5/3/10

BLM-California News.bytes, issue 430

Last updated: 05-04-2010