In a major effort to restore the iconic California condor population, the National Park Foundation has teamed with PG&E, the National Park Service and the Yurok Tribe to build a facility and monitoring program that will allow condors to be released into Yurok ancestral territory, within Redwood National Park in far Northern California.
The donation is part of the National Park Foundation’s $350 million Centennial Campaign for America’s National Parks.
“To see a condor in flight is breathtaking and thanks to our partners, PG&E, the National Park Service and the Yurok Tribe, people will be able to witness this wildlife at Redwood National Park in the near future,” said Will Shafroth, National Park Foundation president. “We are proud to work with organizations that protect our national parks and the wildlife that call these places home.”
Due to a number of factors, including lead poisoning, the California condor was close to extinction in the 1980s, reaching an all-time low of 22 birds. Over the past several decades, conservationists and scientists have committed to saving the condor from extinction and reintroducing birds to the wild.
As of December 2015, there were 435 condors in the wild and in captivity. While this is good news, condors still face many environmental challenges.
“The park staff at Redwood National and State Parks is excited to work alongside the Yurok Tribe and our park neighbors to eventually return the iconic California condor to its historic range along the North Coast,” said Steven Prokop, Redwood National Park superintendent. “This cooperative effort is required to restore the ecological and cultural vitality of the coast redwood forests and expand the range of California condors, key factors in the long-term survival of the species.”
In support of the condor recovery, for the past decade the Yurok Tribe has led efforts to reintroduce condors in the Pacific Northwest, a region that North America’s largest bird has not occupied in more than a century.
Exposing a new population of condors to the profuse biological diversity found in Redwood National Park and the surrounding area has a very real potential to aid in the soaring scavenger’s long-term recovery.
The multiyear project includes:
- Construction of a condor release facility at a site in Redwood National Park.
- Development of a land owner GIS database for Humboldt, Mendocino, Del Norte, Trinity and Siskiyou counties in California, and Josephine and Curry counties in Oregon.
- Design of a remote tracking and monitoring system to better understand flight and habitat patterns.
PG&E, a longtime partner of the National Park Foundation, will provide funding and support for this project. The energy company has previously invested more than $4 million in its infrastructure in the Big Sur area to ensure that condor flight paths aren’t obstructed by power lines, allowing the birds to prosper in their natural habitat.
“In our role as energy provider to millions of Californians, we’re committed to working in ways that protect the habitat for the majestic condors and all of our state’s wonderful diversity of species,” said PG&E Corporation Chairman and CEO Tony Earley.
The reestablishment of a condor population in far Northern California is especially important to members of the Yurok Tribe, which started the region’s first condor reintroduction effort. Condors are considered sacred by the Yurok and serve an important role in the tribe’s culture.
“The condor has played a major part in Yurok ceremonies and culture since time immemorial,” said Thomas P. O’Rourke Sr., chairman of the Yurok Tribe. “It is through collaborative projects like this that we will bring balance back to our natural world.”
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