The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area (YBWA), located within the Yolo Basin of the Sacramento Valley, is a large protected area along the Pacific Flyway, a north-south flyway for migratory birds. The wildlife area is approximately 16,770 acres and contains historic wetlands, wintering habitat for waterfowl and shorebirds, agricultural lands, and riparian, aquatic, and grassland habitats. The Yolo Bypass was originally constructed to control seasonal high flows from Sacramento River to protect the cities of Sacramento, West Sacramento, and Davis from flooding. Within the Yolo Bypass, the YBWA uses seasonal flooding as the primary wetland management strategy for migratory waterfowl. In conjunction with wetland habitat management, almost half of the YBWA is managed using agricultural practices such as rice growing and cattle grazing.
In the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, agriculture is used as a management tool to provide habitat while providing income for the management and operation of the land. In the northern fields, visible from the causeway on I-80, rice is grown, harvested, and flooded to provide food for waterfowl. Grasslands in the southern portion of the wildlife area are managed using cattle, which act as a proxy for the native pronghorn antelope and tule elk that would have historically grazed the area. With the help of these agricultural management practices, the Wildlife Area has been home to amazing amounts of biodiversity.
Yolo County RCD assists the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) by overseeing the agricultural leases, grazing permits, and duck club contracts to ensure all activities stay consistent with the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Land Management Plan. Yolo County RCD fulfills a vital role by liaising between the agricultural producers and CDFW to ensure that all the specific habitat management goals are met. This includes site monitoring, reporting on agricultural activities, and providing technical assistance when needed to ensure best management practices.
The Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area Grazing Lease Management Project is made possible thanks to funding from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.