Meet A Grant Manager Working to Restore California’s Riparian Habitat

This week, we asked one of the Department of Conservation’s 13 grant managers to tell us a little more about his job.

Meet David Dodds, grant manager and guidelines developer for the Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation and Working Lands and Riparian Corridors programs.

Sustainable Agricultural Lands Conservation program conserves agricultural lands, reducing greenhouse gas emissions associated with urbanization, and helps local governments plan land-use strategies protect ag land that may otherwise be developed.

The Working Lands and Riparian Corridors program provides grants to protect, restore, and enhance working lands and riparian corridors through conservation easements and restoration projects on agricultural lands.

Dodds has been with DOC for almost three years.

What are some of the complexities of grant management?

“The restoration grants are really active in the spring and summer when work can be done in the streams,” said Dodds. “Many of the projects work in sensitive habitats so impacts must be low. Work needs to be done during the right time of year to protect sensitive and endangered species. The conservation easement projects often take two years to complete due to the nature of real estate transactions.”

Just a few of the reasons Dodds is currently managing around 20 grant projects at different phases of completion.

The California drought also complicates work. As of June 1, 2021, the State Water Board reports that 41 of 58 California counties are in a drought emergency.

“Some of the projects where groups wanted to plant native plants in the ground are on hold due to the drought,” said Dodds. “They don’t know how they will be able to maintain those plants if drought conditions remain.”

What projects are most interesting to you right now?

“Our Working Lands and Riparian Corridors grants are not like anything else the division funds,” says Dodd.

The Division of Land Resource Protection’s grants have funded conservation easements, planning, improved stakeholder capacity and supported sustainable development.  One of the project types Working Lands and Riparian Corridors funds is riparian restoration, and this is the first time the Department has funded habitat restoration. 

“This is a step forward in providing a holistic approach to conserving land and improving for both natural habitat and continued agricultural use.  These grants will improve habitat but also support the agricultural operators.” said Dodds.

DOC also provides funding to organizations that want to improve the state of the land next to rivers and streams, such as removing invasive species and planting native plants.

“For example,” explained Dodd, “if you’ve ever been along the side of a river you might notice blackberry brambles. While this is great for humans and animals because we can eat the blackberries, they are considered non-native species. So, some organizations may use the funding to remove non-native or invasive species and create a more natural habitat.”

Currently, Kings River Resource Conservation District and the Tulare Lake Resource Conservation District (RCDs), are gunning to restore for a big stretch of the Kings River.

“It’s interesting because of sheer mileage of riverbank they are trying to repair and the amount of trash they’ve removed – 107,000 lbs. so far.”

Ventura County RCD is planting hedgerows and windrows on a property to create a better (less windy for the bees) pollinator habitat for a farm and improving water delivery systems to reduce how much groundwater is pumped out so that more water stays in the ground making the farm more efficient.

Another group, Sonoma County RCD, is removing invasive species and plating native, and creating “swales”–drainage systems to slow the water from draining from the property to the creeks and streams, creating less erosion, and better water quality.

What is your favorite part of being a grant manager for DOC?

“Site visits. Seeing these properties in person, days spent on ranches on trucks with ranch dogs, talking to people interested in conservation and restoring the land,” said Dodds. “People putting a conservation easement on their property are pretty interesting people and they have that conservation ethic. Learning about their property and what they’re interested in and, if the funding works out, being a part of their conservation story.

Division of Land Resource Protection Grant Manager David Dodds and his dog Ceelee in Napa, Ca.

“One of my favorite projects recently was with the Sierra Foothill Conservancy. The easement project is on a cattle ranch in Madera in an area where cattle ranches are being replaced by houses and almonds. The ranch has been in the family for three or four generations and the conservation easement pushed the land trust over 50k acres conserved.

Being able to be a part of the legacy of cattle ranching and the human side of all of this is really something special.”

Learn more about the Division of Land Resource Protection

The Division of Land Resource Protection (DLRP) serves as the state’s leader in conserving California’s irreplaceable agricultural lands. DLRP provides information, as well as technical and financial assistance, to partners in order to protect California’s agricultural land and promote sustainable growth​.

DLRP currently administers the following grant programs, in addition to SALC and the Working Lands and Riparian Corridors that Dodd works on:

Follow us on social (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram @CalConservation) for updates on more of our projects.

Leave a Reply