Acknowledgements 5 executive summary

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Explore options for either repairing or removing Rookery Berm. Rookery Berm, located on the South Marsh Loop Trail, was damaged during the heavy El Nino rains of 1998 and currently harbors a large crack. It has been evaluated by engineers from a private firm as well as by CDFG engineers.

  • Rebuild Whistlestop Causeway and replace its culverts. The causeway that separates South Marsh and Whistlestop Lagoon has been severely eroded by extreme high tides and rains. Temporary repairs were made in 2005/2006; but, a more permanent rebuilding of the structure, including replacing the existing damaged culverts and building a bulkhead on the north side of the levee to prevent gravel from entering the lagoon, is needed.

  • Repair and prevent bank and trail erosion on the South Marsh Loop Trail. The banks of the South Marsh Lagoon near the site of an old dairy dump are severely eroded. The public and maintenance access trail along this section is in jeopardy of being closed due to this erosion. The surrounding terrain is such that this closure would have serious impacts on accessibility.

  • Repair or replace the North Marsh tide gates and associated structures. Three of the four tide gates in North Marsh need repair in order to facilitate management of the marsh for migratory shore birds. The culverts have been bent into a “v” due to the weight of the tide gate levee and the grating above the eastern end of the culverts is skewed and partially missing.

  • Maintain Cattail Swale sediment basins. Cattail Swale (upper and lower ponds) is some of the area’s best breeding habitat for endangered California Red-legged Frogs and Santa Cruz Long-toed Salamanders. The basins require continuous maintenance of sediment levels and water control structures.

  • Repair the Large Dairy Barn. A large, historic dairy barn is open to the public on the South Marsh Loop trail. The barn has severe dry rot and termite damage and major beams need replacing. The barn is used as a sun and rain shelter for visitors hiking the trails and as a gathering and teaching spot for school groups, public tours, and teacher workshops.

  • Repair the Small Dairy Barn. The small barn left over from the dairy operation has dry rot and termite damage. The barn is currently used for storage of maintenance materials and is not open to the public.

  • Replace the footings on the South Marsh Loop Trail footbridge. The footbridge that was constructed in 2002 still requires upgraded footings at each end. These footings also need to be armored to protect them from tidal scour and wind wave erosion.

  • Replace parking lot lights. Three of the four parking lot light poles have rotten and fallen down. The final light is temporarily braced, but will require replacement soon. Providing lights in the parking lot, especially in the winter, is important for human safety and for building security.

  • Repair or replace Reserve public use structures. Various public use structures such as benches, outhouses, boardwalks, and viewing blinds are in need of repair or replacement. More than 50,000 people visit the Reserve each year and structures available for their use must be properly maintained.

  • Redesign and replace the Reserve’s front entrance sign and trail signs. The front entrance sign to the Reserve has not been replaced in over 20 years and is degraded and outdated. A portion of the planter box associated with the sign was burned in a small grass fire and needs replacing. Directional trail signs throughout the Reserve are old, rotten, and many are unreadable. Visitors need signs to welcome them through the Reserve entrance and to navigate around the trails and back to the visitor center and parking lot.

  • Repair and improve the Marsh Education Dock. The Marsh Education Dock, located on the South Marsh Loop Trail, needs to be repaired and improved in order to be useable. An all-weather trail and an education staging area need to be developed to improve access.

  • Repair and maintain employee residences. The three employee residences on the Reserve were on the site before CDFG purchased the property. One was a hunting lodge built in 1906, one was a caretaker’s cottage built in 1914 and expanded in 1984, and one served as Elkhorn Dairy staff housing. All three buildings are aged and require infrastructure maintenance and repairs.

    1. A variety of new facilities are necessary to meet the Reserve’s program goals. (See Chapter XIX for over-arching facilities goals.) New facilities will require additional funding both for their initial construction and maintenance. New construction will also require appropriate permits and review. The Reserve will:

        1. Seek funding to develop a state and county-approved Facilities Master Plan for the Reserve.

        2. Continue to define goals and needs for further development of Reserve facilities. We hope to work with a professional consultant to refine and develop a Facilities Master Plan, and shepherd it through the permitting process. This plan will provide more specific guidelines regarding the recommended timing and placement of various facilities as well as provide streamlined permitting review for individual projects. Some of the needs that will be included in the Facilities Master Plan development are listed below.

        3. Seek funding for and, if successful, construct an equipment storage building, expanded carport, tractor shed, boat rack, and wood shed. There is currently no indoor, locked storage facility for large equipment. Many expensive pieces of equipment are located in a carport or an uncovered area of the shop yard, both of which are not secure from the coastal elements or from theft. Covered storage is also needed for vehicles, tractors and attachments, boats, and construction materials such as wood and fencing.

        4. Seek funding to plan for, and possibly construct a 200-person meeting space. Meeting space is needed on a regular basis for Coastal Training Program workshops, teacher workshops, meetings, lectures, volunteer activities, public events, and fundraisers. Currently, the Reserve’s meeting space can only hold about 50 people, which is not sufficient for many of the events we currently host or wish to host. Options to meet this need include holding larger events off-site in order to use other available venues, renting temporary structures for each event, remodeling and expanding the current administration building, or constructing a new meeting facility.

        5. Explore the possibility of expanding employee housing. The high local cost of living presents employee recruitment problems for the Reserve. Additional staff housing may result from upcoming land acquisition but if it doesn’t, housing options such as new construction or placement of a modular or mobile home may be investigated.

        6. Explore the possibility of constructing (or remodeling) a facility to serve as a guesthouse or dormitory. A dormitory or guesthouse is important to encourage research and education program participation. The high local cost of lodging presents a financial burden to scientists and educators who wish to use the Reserve on a temporary basis. Reserve programs, such as the Coastal Training Program, would save per diem costs if invited speakers could stay on-site instead of in a hotel.

        7. Seek funding for and, if successful, create additional all-weather parking. Additional parking is needed for employees and visitors during peak visitation times. Currently, the overflow parking area is a grassy field that is not accessible during the wet months.

        8. Seek funding for and, if successful, construct support facilities for the restoration greenhouse. Currently, there are funds in place to construct a new greenhouse to grow plants for native habitat restoration. If additional funds are acquired, necessary components to the greenhouse facility will be added.

        9. Seek funding for and, if successful, construct a vehicle soil wash station. A vehicle soil wash station is necessary to help prevent the introduction of Sudden Oak Death and invasive weed seeds to the Reserve. These stations are commonly used by other state and federal resource agencies.

        10. Consider seeking funding and, if successful, remodel and expand the Administration Building to better serve staff needs. The Administration Building floor plan needs to be reconsidered to provide maximum workplace efficiency. Some work spaces are located near through-ways or near the mail and photocopy area that receives disruptive traffic, and the kitchen area is poorly located. The need for additional office space is anticipated.

        11. Seek funding for and, if successful, create an archive storage area for maps, historical photos, and other large items. The proper storage of maps, blueprints, historical data, images, and other items is an ongoing need.

    Chapter XII.

    Public Access
    A. Introduction
    The Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve offers a variety of opportunities for public access. The Reserve is open to the public Wednesdays through Sundays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The 583 hectare property (1,439 acres) is a hub of activity, visited by more than 50,000 people each year, and providing some unique and interesting wildlife viewing opportunities.
    Access to the Elkhorn Slough NERR is through the main gate at 1700 Elkhorn Road. A fee of $2.50 per person is collected for visitors aged 17 and older. Admission is free for children under age 16 and for anyone holding a valid California hunting or fishing license. Educational groups such as school field trips and scout troops are also admitted free of charge.
    The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is committed to public access on the Elkhorn Slough NERR. However, providing adequate maintenance in order to ensure ongoing public access has proved a serious challenge. Significant budget cuts throughout the state combined with recruitment challenges resulting from the local high cost of living have left the Reserve without any full-time state maintenance personnel since 2000.
    B. Visitor’s Center

    Upon arrival at the Reserve, most people first stop by the Visitor’s Center, where they learn about the Reserve and its inhabitants, the surrounding watershed, and the value of estuaries. The Visitor’s Center provides a variety of exhibits as well as opportunities to interact with dedicated interpretive staff and docents. Visitors may also experience the Reserve’s diverse habitats first-hand, by hiking the five miles of trails that meander through beautiful oak woodlands, grasslands, calm tidal lagoons and freshwater marshes.

    The Visitor’s Center has disabled-accessible men’s and women’s restrooms, and a drinking fountain.
    Directly outside the Visitor’s Center are a picnic area and an amphitheater. These facilities are available to the public on a first-come, first-served basis without charge. The picnic area includes trash and recycling cans, as well as a large grass field for games and educational activities.
    C. Reserve Trails

    The Elkhorn Slough NERR has three loop trails – the Long Valley Loop, Five Fingers Loop, and South Marsh Loop -- each with trailheads that begin within a half-mile of the Visitor’s Center (Figure 12.1). These trails connect with several secondary trails that take visitors to additional sites of ecological, scenic, or cultural significance. The Reserve’s three trailheads are connected by a paved, wheelchair-accessible path, which ends at a scenic overlook of the Elkhorn Slough and features two spotting scopes.

    Long Valley Loop

    Less than a quarter-mile from the Visitor’s center is the Long Valley Loop trail. The trail is a 0.8 mile loop that passes through oak woodland and follows along one of the fingers of a waterway known appropriately as “Five Fingers” or Parsons Slough. Along the trail are two resting benches. A boardwalk extends into the marsh that allows for a closer look at the Slough’s mudflat animals at low tides and estuarine animals at high tides. This boardwalk is a favorite place to view leopard sharks, smoothhound sharks, and sat rays in the summer when they come into the shallows to feed on crabs and bear their live young.

    Five-Fingers Loop

    The Five Fingers Loop is a little over one mile long. The trail takes visitors through coast live oak, eucalyptus groves, and to the trail head of the Parson’s Slough Overlook. Most of the Five Fingers Loop follows the hillside for great views looking toward Monterey Bay in the distance. In 1982 this site held the record for most bird species seen in a single day in all of North America -- 116 species were seen on October 31. The trail also features resting benches for tired hikers. A spur trail leads to a specially-constructed wildlife viewing blind that allows visitors a closer look at the Slough’s wildlife without disturbing the animals.

    South Marsh Loop

    The longest trail on the Reserve is the South Marsh Loop, which is over two miles long and connects to secondary trails with access to the North Marsh Overlook and Hummingbird Island. The trail includes two old dairy barns, which were part of the Elkhorn Dairy Farm that operated on the property from 1915 until 1972. Public outhouses and drinking water are provided at the larger of the two barns. The trail passes through native oak woodlands, and non-native Monterey pine and eucalyptus forests, and features views of a large rookery that is home to nesting great blue herons, great egrets, and double crested cormorants. The trail features resting benches and a boardwalk that extends into South Marsh. At low tide, the boardwalk affords visitors the opportunity to view mud-dwelling invertebrate burrows and the tracks of many birds and mammals that forage on the mudflat. The footbridge allows visitors to witness the slough’s daily tidal currents, as the tides transport sea water into and out of the Rookery Lagoon.

    Hummingbird Island

    Hummingbird Island is accessed via a westerly extension of the South Marsh Loop Trail. The 200 square-foot “island” (it is actually a small peninsula) was once an Ohlone campsite and is now being restored by a small group of active volunteers. While the other Reserve trails explore various fingers and lagoons of Elkhorn Slough, Hummingbird Island brings visitors to the edge of the main channel. A resting bench is provided at the western-most end of the island that overlooks channel waters.

    Two sculptures funded by the California Environmental Arts Council are located on the island. The sculptures, which incorporate both natural and manufactured components, were inspired by the shapes of an Ohlone hut and a shell mound or “midden”. These are not replicas, but instead are unique art pieces designed to each incorporate an ecological function. The hut-shaped sculpture serves as a focal point for flowering native plants that are favored by hummingbirds. The midden-shaped sculpture is accompanied by a reflecting pool that serves as the island’s freshwater drinking source for wildlife.

    Figure 12.1. Aerial view of the Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve with public trails marked.

    D. Reserve Regulations & Enforcement

    The Elkhorn Slough NERR has a number of regulations that protect natural resources, while maintaining the safety and enjoyment of visitors. These regulations are posted in Title 14 of the California Administrative Code, Chapter 11. Ecological Reserves, and include the following:

    1. Only foot traffic is allowed on trails.

    2. Hikers must remain on designated trails.

    3. All plants, animals, and artifacts are protected. No collecting is allowed.

    4. Releasing of any animals, feeding of wildlife, or introduction of any plant is prohibited.

    5. Camping and boating are not permitted within the Reserve.

    6. No areas within the Reserve have been designated for hunting or fishing.

    7. Pets are prohibited from entering the Reserve unless they are retained on a leash of less than ten feet or are inside a motor vehicle. Pets are not allowed on the trails.

    8. Fires and firearms are not permitted.

    9. Picnics are allowed in designated areas.

    10. Litter must be disposed of in trash cans.

    11. Researchers have established experiments around the Reserve. These experiments can not be removed or disturbed in any way.

    12. Entrance to the Reserve is only available during the posted open hours and only through the main gate at 1700 Elkhorn Road.

    Enforcement of all regulations is provided by DFG wardens.

    E. ADA Accessibility of Reserve

    In recent years, the Elkhorn Slough NERR has made several changes in order to provide better access to persons with impaired mobility. In 2000, the Reserve built a ¼ mile paved hiking path that extends from the Visitor’s Center to the main overlook of Elkhorn Slough, looking out toward Moss Landing. Additionally, in 2005 the following upgrades were implemented in order to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA):

    1. Added a wheelchair-accessible shelf to the Visitor’s Center customer counter

    2. Retrofitted public bathrooms

    3. Graded the parking lot path to allow for wheelchair access

    4. Lowered the conference room sink and counter

    5. Installed ADA compliant signage

    During special events, the Reserve also provides limited mobility van rides out to the bird rookery.

    F. Public Access Near the Reserve

    With several state beaches, parks, preserves, and wildlife areas nearby, the Elkhorn Slough watershed offers a wide range of access opportunities (Tales 12.1-12.2). At the Department of Fish and Game’s Moss Landing Wildlife Area, fishing and seasonal hunting for waterfowl is permitted.

    An excellent way to experience the Slough’s vast marine life is by kayak or canoe. Paddling just above the water level, visitors can come face to face with sea otters, harbor seals, and many bird and fish species. Kayaks can be launched from Kirby Park (3 miles north of the Reserve) or the beach or boat ramp at the mouth of the Elkhorn Slough in Moss Landing.

    Table 12.1. Public access to the Elkhorn Slough.

    Park Name

    Area (m3)


    Perimeter (meters)

    Managing Agency

    Kirby Park




    California Department of Fish and Game

    Moss Landing Wildlife Area




    California Department of Fish and Game

    Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve




    Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve

    Kirby Park




    Moss Landing Harbor District

    Royal Oaks Park




    Monterey County

    Manzanita Park




    Monterey County

    Moss Landing State Beach




    California State Parks

    Salinas River State Beach




    California State Parks

    Salinas River National Wildlife Refuge




    U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

    Zmudowski State Beach




    California State Parks

    Table 12.2. Hiking trails in the Elkhorn Slough Watershed

    Park Name

    Total trails (meters)

    Total trails (miles)

    Elkhorn Slough NERR



    Moss Landing Wildlife Area



    Kirby Park



    Zmudowski State Beach



    Moss Landing State Beach



    Salinas River State Beach



    Manzanita County Park



    Royal Oaks County Park



    G. Reserve Objectives & Strategies

    Objective 1. Maintain safe public access to the Reserve, with minimal impact on habitats.

    1. The Reserve will maintain safe public access to the Reserve, with minimal impact on habitats. In order to accomplish this we will:

      1. Maintain public trails, boardwalks, scenic overlooks, restrooms, and picnic facilities

      2. Provide visitors with a trail map and a list of Reserve regulations

      3. Display adequate signage designating areas off limits due to restoration, research, or sensitive habits

      4. Offer interpretation and information through the Visitor’s Center

    Objective 2. Work with public agencies and community groups to enhance public access to areas adjacent to the Elkhorn Slough NERR.

    1. The Reserve will work with other public agencies and community groups to enhance public access to areas adjacent to the Elkhorn Slough NERR. In order to accomplish this we will:

    1. provide input to public agencies and community groups on ways to increase public access.

    2. participate in the development of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary trail system through collaboration, meeting participation, and advice.

    XIII. Elkhorn Slough Acquisition Plan

    A. Introduction

    The California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is actively involved in the conservation of tidal wetlands and adjacent upland habitat along the central California coast. In order to achieve habitat protection goals for wetlands, CDFG has developed strong partnerships in the conservation and management of natural resources of Elkhorn Slough. These partners include the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF), the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the Resource Conservation District of Monterey County, the California Coastal Conservancy, and The Nature Conservancy. The interlocking work of these organizations and agencies provides a platform for the successful completion of key conservation goals in the watershed, and will insure the permanent protection of wildlife and habitat in the central Monterey Bay region.

    Thirty years ago in its publication “The Natural Resources of Elkhorn Slough”, CDFG identified Elkhorn Slough as a critical natural resource for California. This report galvanized active conservation activities in the slough and, today, a portion of the slough is managed by the CDFG as a State Ecological Reserve/National Estuarine Research Reserve and a Wildlife Area.
    In the past twenty years, the CDFG has participated in the development of a series of conservation and management plans for Elkhorn Slough and its watershed. These plans include the Elkhorn Slough Sanctuary, Final Environmental Impact Statement,1979; Elkhorn Slough Wetland Management Plan,1989; Moro Cojo Slough Management and Enhancement Plan, 1996; Elkhorn Slough Watershed Conservation Plan,1999; and Elkhorn Slough at the Crossroads, Natural Resources and Conservation Strategies for the Elkhorn Slough Watershed, 2002. CDFG staff, along with a number of agency and non-profit partners, has relied on these plans for identifying key acquisitions to protect and enhance the fish and wildlife resources of Elkhorn Slough.
    The habitats within and around Elkhorn Slough are home to a diverse array of important plant and animal species. Elkhorn Slough has been designated a Globally Important Bird Area by the National Audubon Society and the American Birding Conservancy, and a Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve by the Manomet Bird Observatory. In addition to the remarkable concentrations of birds in the slough, the tidelands, marshes, and adjoining uplands support impressive numbers of wildlife. The following species are listed as critical biological resources by state and federal agencies and the California Native Plant Society. They were reported, along with their official and legal status, in Elkhorn Slough at the Crossroads, Natural Resources and Conservation Strategies for the Elkhorn Slough Watershed.

    * Hooker’s manzanita * Pajaro manzanita

    * Monterey coanothus * Monterey spineflower

    * Eastwood’s goldenbush * Coast wallflower

    * Fragrant fritillary * Sand gilia

    * Congdon’s tarplant * Small-leaved lomatium

    * Gairdner’s yampah * Michael’s rein orchid

    * Yadon’s piperia * S.F. popcornflower

    * S.C. clover * Monterey Indian plant

    * Southern sea otter * Black legless lizard

    * CA brackishwater snail * Monarch butterfly

    * CA red-legged frog * CA tiger salamander

    * SC long-toed salamander * Southwestern pond turtle

    * Tidewater goby * CA brown pelican

    * Double-crested cormorant (nesting) * American bittern

    * Great blue heron (nesting) * Great egret (nesting)

    * Black-crowned night heron (nesting) * Black brandt

    * Osprey * White-tailed kite (nesting)

    * Northern harrier * Sharp-shinned hawk

    * Cooper’s hawk * Ferruginous hawk

    * Golden eagle * Merlin

    * CA black rail * CA clapper rail

    * Western snowy plover * Mountain plover

    * Caspian tern * Forster’s tern

    * CA least tern * Black skimmer

    * Burrowing owl * Short-eared owl

    * Belted kingfisher * Olive-sided flycatcher

    * Loggerhead shrike * CA horned lark

    * Monterey pigmy nuthatch * Grasshopper sparrow

    * Tricolored blackbird * Yellow-headed blackbird

    * Lawrence’s goldfinch
    B. Priorities

    All lands proposed for acquisition are located in North Monterey County.

    Acquisition priorities for the Elkhorn Slough NERR, as determined by the area conservation plans and CDFG, are to preserve those parcels that:

    • help create an intact and interconnected network of natural communities;

    • help complete acquisition of Elkhorn Slough tidal marshlands;

    • will improve the water quality of Elkhorn Slough if taken out of current land use;

    • protect biodiversity and sensitive species;

    • have the greatest potential for restoration and improvement with the least amount of resources; and

    • are in imminent jeopardy from development.

    C. Strategies

    State acquisitions for the Reserve are conducted with only willing landowners. When a property is identified for protection, based on the owner’s willingness to sell and available funding sources, CDFG will choose the appropriate method of protection. Determining factors will include the properties’ management requirements, location, ecological value, and cost.

    Fee-simple acquisition will be used to:

    • acquire property in the Reserve’s core and buffer areas;

    • expand Reserve boundaries into areas of high value in order to achieve our conservation goals; and

    • acquire property that protects water quality and biodiversity.

    Conservation easements are valuable tools that will be used to leverage funding with acquisition/protection needs. Easements allow property to be protected while reducing costs and management responsibility, and ensuring permanent protected status. Conservation easements will be used to:

    • purchase development rights;

    • protect water quality and biodiversity;

    • provide access for research and education programming; and

    • protect property that holds significant ecological value.

    The decision to choose fee-simple acquisition over the purchase of a conservation easement rests on several factors. If a property offers adequate public access and will provide additional areas for research and education activities, fee-simple acquisition will be favored. If a property contains habitat typical of other Reserve holdings, has limited public access, or has owners that are unwilling to consider fee-simple acquisition, purchase of a conservation easement will be favored.

    Chapter XIV.

    Administration Program Overview
    A. Need for Administration Program

    People and funding are the basis of all Reserve programs. If either one of these elements is missing or is mismanaged, the program will fail, and conservation goals will not be attained. Operating in a well-organized manner increases efficiency and productivity. Positive public relations help garner funding, partnerships, and community support which, in turn, promotes Elkhorn Slough watershed conservation.

    B. Program History

    For ten years after the Reserve was first designated in 1979, there was only a Reserve Manager and a Habitat Assistant on staff with the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG). The Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) staff consisted of an Executive Director and two part-time staff who spent some of their time assisting the Reserve. In 1989, CDFG launched their California Wildlands Program which brought two full-time interpreters to the site. Soon after, the first Administrative Assistant position was hired. Today, the staff of the Reserve (consisting of both CDFG and NOAA grant-funded positions, and both full and part-time staff) has risen to about 20, and the ESF staff has grown to 10. While the staff, budget, and programs have become larger and more complex, there has remained only one Reserve Administrative Assistant.

    C. Program Purpose and Goals

    The administration program’s purpose is to provide human and fiscal resource management to the Reserve and to provide a framework of policies and processes necessary to support Reserve programs and operations.


    • To provide well-trained staff to achieve the Reserve’s conservation goals.

    • To provide a stimulating, healthy work environment for all staff.

    • To procure and responsibly manage funding to achieve the Reserve’s conservation goals.

    • To foster cooperation within and between CDFG, NOAA, and ESF.

    • To facilitate the development and implementation of clear policies and procedures to guide the management of the Reserve.

    • To operate the Reserve in a well-organized and efficient manner.

    • To provide high quality public information about the Reserve.

    D. Program Description

    Administrative Framework


    1. Role and Responsibility of NOAA

    NOAA’s Estuarine Reserves Division (ERD) administers the overall National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) and provides support for the Reserves. ERD disburses and oversees expenditures of federal funds. ERD also coordinates the design and implementation of system-wide programs, provides guidance for the development of NERRS policies, and is responsible for ensuring that the Reserve is managed according to NERRS policies and regulations.
    As required by federal regulations (15 C.F.R. Part 921.40), NOAA periodically evaluates the performance of the Reserve for compliance with federal requirements and with the Reserve’s federally-approved management plan. The last performance review (CZMA Section 312 evaluation) of Elkhorn Slough NERR’s programs and operations was conducted in 2005.

    1. Role and Responsibility of CDFG

    The role and responsibility of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) is the direct management of the Reserve’s facilities, habitat, and personnel. CDFG provides administrative support to the Reserve in the form of personnel management, legal advice and representation, engineering, health and safety inspections, accounting, contract management, training, and other services.
    The Wildlife Conservation Board (WCB) is the land acquisition arm of CDFG and is responsible for the purchase of properties for the Reserve.
    The Reserve is governed by the California Code of Regulations, Title 14. Natural Resources, Division 1. Fish and Game Commission – Department of Fish and Game.

    1. Role and Responsibility of ESF

    The mission of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation is to conserve and restore Elkhorn Slough and its watershed.
    The Elkhorn Slough Foundation Strategic Initiative for 2006-10 identifies six major goals for the next five years:

    • Conserve and protect key lands in the Elkhorn Slough Watershed.

    • Manage these protected lands to conserve their natural resources and demonstrate successful conservation use.

    • Support programs and activities at the Elkhorn Slough Reserve that are complimentary with our mission.

    • Create dynamic partnerships to protect Elkhorn Slough and other threatened ecosystems.

    • Build an organizational culture and capacity for long term stability and success.

    • Assure the fiscal strength and stability of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation.

    The ESF serves as an administrative liaison between NOAA and CDFG. They receive a portion of the annual NOAA award for Reserve operations on behalf of the Reserve. CDFG remains responsible for all Reserve program supervision and decision making, but ESF administers the funds and provides grant management services. ESF funds and operates the visitor center gift shop. ESF assists the Reserve in areas of land acquisition, volunteer program support, fundraising, and general administration.

    This relationship is formalized in a Memorandum of Understanding (currently under revision) between CDFG and ESF.

    1. Role and Responsibility of the Reserve Advisory Committee (RAC) and the Technical Advisory Committees (TACs)

    Reserve Advisory Committee

    In support of the Reserve’s mission, it is the role of the RAC members to serve as:

    1.  advisors to ESNERR and

    2.  liaisons between ESNERR, its partner agencies, and stakeholders.

    It is the responsibility of the RAC to be knowledgeable of ESNERR’s mission, programs, and activities in order to:

            • support ESNERR in developing and achieving its vision and goals,

            • serve as an ambassador for ESNERR within the community each member represents,

            • provide input to ESNERR about potential collaborations or impacts resulting from Reserve activities,

            • help identify and anticipate external trends and changes that might affect ESNERR,

            • provide input on NOAA 312 evaluations of ESNERR.

    RAC membership is made up of Reserve stakeholders. Emphasis is placed on representatives who have a geographical link to Elkhorn Slough. For example, the Industry representative would be from a business that is located on or near the Slough.

    The RAC is comprised of members representing each of the following categories:


    California Coastal Commission

    California Department of Fish and Game


    Formal K-12 Education

    Industry (near Elkhorn Slough)

    Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

    Monterey County (land use related office)

    Moss Landing Harbor District

    Non-formal Education

    Non-profit Organization Land Owners


    Research Institution

    Residential Property Owners (near Elkhorn Slough)

    Sea Grant

    Technical Advisory Committees

    The role of TACs is to provide technical advice to ESNERR on specific Reserve projects, programs, or policies. TACs will be formed and disbanded as needed.

    It is the responsibility of TAC members to provide expertise and information to ESNERR on identified subject matter in order to:

    • advise on policy or program design and/or,

    • develop strategies for implementation and/or,

    • help form collaborations and partnerships.

    Program Components

    Personnel Administration

    The Reserve is committed to providing supervision and oversight to staff and volunteers working to support or accomplish its mission. This includes attention to:

    • Health and Safety

    • Annual employee work plans and evaluations

    • Training and professional development

    • Adherence to all state and federal policies such as those providing a drug-free workplace and those preventing sexual harassment, violence, and lobbying in the workplace.

    Budget Acquisition

    1. Grants

    Federal, state, and private grants make up the majority of the Reserve’s budget. These grants are run through the State of California or the ESF on behalf of the Reserve. The Reserve manager and lead program staff write and manage grants. Administrative support for grants is provided by the ESF and the CDFG.
    Through Section 315 of the Coastal Zone Management Act, NOAA provides key federal operations funds to the Reserve on an annual basis. These dollars must be matched with 30% state dollars (cash or in-kind). The NOAA operations funds support a variety of programs as described in the annual NOAA Funding Allocations and Guidance. The NOAA operations budget for each Reserve doubled between 1995 and 2005. This increase in funding has allowed the NERRS to develop site-specific and national programs.

    1. State of California Funds

    The State of California provides an annual operating budget for the Reserve. Currently, these funds are from the Environmental License Plate Fund, Sport Fish Restoration Act, and from revenue generated from the sale of day use fees and annual passes to the Reserve. The Reserve also periodically receives state funding for special and emergency repairs. The CDFG budget allocated to the Reserve for salaries, operations, equipment, and supplies, has remained relatively flat over the last ten years. As cost indexes have skyrocketed, this has posed a significant challenge to maintaining programs and meeting commitments.
    Budget Tracking and Accounting

    Reserve budgets are tracked and accounted for by CDFG headquarters staff in Sacramento. In addition to this statewide tracking, Reserve staff maintains detailed spreadsheets and databases of Reserve budgets, expenditures, inventories, and match.


    Purchases of goods and services are completed within the required guidelines set forth by the State of California Purchasing Authority Manual. Purchases made for the Reserve by the ESF are completed within the guidelines set forth by various grant guidance and by the Elkhorn Slough Foundation Fiscal Policies and Procedures Manual. This manual is reviewed annually by ESF auditors.


    The amount of important and useful information and images that are generated by or come to the Reserve has increased dramatically. This information must be properly archived and managed in order for it to be accessible to the many staff, scientists, educators, decision makers, and others who wish to use it. There is currently no staff available or qualified to do this work.

    Public Information

    In order to garner funding and maintain support from partners and the community, it is important to effectively distribute information about Elkhorn Slough. Newsletters, press releases, and websites are some ways this information can be shared. Additional staff is needed to implement these actions.

    Office Policies and Organization

    Keeping a busy office with multiple programs and dozens of staff organized is an important but time-consuming task. An efficiently-run office allows staff to focus their energy more on core programs and less on logistics. A key responsibility of all staff is to help the Reserve run like a well-oiled machine by maintaining good files (electronic and paper), office spaces, and storage spaces. Reserve policies to encourage office efficiency are developed and revised as needed.

    E. Staffing and Working Groups

    Current Staffing

    • 1, full-time Reserve Manager

    • 1, full-time Management Services Technician (Office Manager)

    Staffing Needs

    • 1, full-time Office Assistant (see chapter XI)

    • 1, full-time Grants Manager (see chapters III-XII)

    • 1, part-time Archivist (see chapter XI)

    • 1, part-time Public Information Specialist (see chapter XI)

    Working groups

    One or more Administration Program staff is involved in the following ESNERR strategic planning working group:

    1. Administration Working Group (Lead)

    The Reserve Manager oversees the following ESNERR strategic planning working groups:

    1. Internship Working Group

    2. Public Information Working Group

    3. Information Technology Working Group

    4. Education Working Group

    5. Estuarine Working Group

    6. Coastal Prairie Working Group

    7. Maritime Chaparral Working Group

    8. Freshwater Wetlands Working Group

    9. Coast Live Oak Working Group

    10. Pollution Working Group

    11. Monitoring Working Group

    F. Guiding Documents and References
    The following manuals guide the administrative work of the Reserve:

    • Department of Fish and Game Operations Manual

    • Department of General Services State Administrative Manual

    • Elkhorn Slough Foundation Fiscal Policies and Procedures Manual

    • State of California Contracting Manual

    • State of California Purchasing Authority Manual

    • State of California Contracting Manual

    XV. Volunteer Program Overview

    A. Need For Volunteer Program

    “Many hands make light work” (John Heywood, English playwright and poet, 1497-1580). At the Elkhorn Slough NERR this is only made possible by the hard work and dedication of the Reserve’s volunteers. In addition to making work lighter, our volunteers help us to do more work. With volunteers, many tasks can be accomplished faster and easier, and in some cases, tasks would even need to be dropped if there were not volunteers to cover them.

    Reserve volunteers assist with the work of stewardship, research, education, public outreach, maintenance, and administration. Their hours represent a significant contribution to Reserve programs. Moreover, the Reserve converts volunteer hours into a dollar value which is then used as in-kind match for grants. In 2005, the financial value of volunteer hours to the Reserve was over $100,000.
    Some of the benefits of a volunteer program are less tangible than a dollar value represented by their hours worked. Well-trained and enthusiastic volunteers serve as important community ambassadors for conservation. It has been shown that volunteer programs are needed by society to provide a venue for like-minded people to get together and share their passion for a cause. Providing those opportunities, in the context of working toward important conservation goals, is part of what the Elkhorn Slough volunteer program can provide.
    B. Program History

    The shift of perception from characterizing Elkhorn Slough as “a weedy swamp waiting to be developed" into "one of California's rarest jewels…" (Silberstein and Ferguson 1991) has carried with it a mandate for protection and restoration. The challenges have been daunting, and the resources of the conservation agencies limited; volunteers have made up the difference.

    Volunteers from the community were instrumental in helping the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG) purchase areas of the Elkhorn Slough and establish the Reserve. Early on, it was recognized that in order to protect the slough the support of the community was essential.
    With guidance from The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the Elkhorn Slough Foundation (ESF) carried out the first volunteer training in 1983 and managed the program through 1988. In 1989, responsibility for the volunteer program was transferred to CDFG under the auspices of its California Wildlands Program (CWP). With this transfer came the funds to hire a full-time Volunteer Coordinator as supervisor of the volunteers. Today, volunteers continue to function under the aegis of the CDFG and are considered unpaid state employees.
    C. Program Purpose & Goals


    The purpose of the volunteer program is to recruit, train, and support volunteers so they can effectively assist Reserve and ESF staff in carrying out their conservation goals. Our core belief is that knowledge of and appreciation for nature precedes and motivates conservation behavior.

    Program Goals

    • Address the needs of volunteers

        • In order to be productive and have a positive personal experience, volunteers must enjoy what they do and feel appreciated.

    • Maintain a well-organized and well-managed volunteer program

        • Clear guidance must be given regarding issues such as policies, procedures, and minimum requirements for training and service. Accurate and up-to-date data bases of volunteer information, hours and type of service must be maintained.

    • Focus volunteer efforts on the highest priority needs of the Reserve and ESF

        • Annual evaluation of work plans of both staff and volunteers is necessary to insure that the most important tasks are being given the greatest effort.

    • Maintain high quality volunteer output

        • In order to insure that volunteers serve as appropriate and effective ambassadors for the Reserve and for watershed conservation, regular evaluation of their performance is necessary. Evaluation results will inform where training or feedback is needed and will guide future program planning.

    D. Program Description


    One hundred (100) active volunteers form the core of the Reserve's volunteer program. Collectively, they contribute an average of 7,000 hours of service annually. Our volunteers range in age from 18 to 96 and represent diverse educational and employment backgrounds, and talents. This diverse group includes birders, doctors, therapists, teachers, building contractors, and others with interests and talents that they are willing to share. Most volunteers come from Santa Cruz County and Monterey County, with the balance residing in San Benito and Santa Clara counties. The Reserve is committed to increase the ethnic and cultural diversity of its volunteers to better reflect the demographics of the neighboring communities which we serve.

    Volunteer Services

    Reserve volunteers work in the following service areas:

    Interpretation and Public Contact

    Trained volunteers greet visitors when they enter the Reserve visitor center, and are able to answer a variety of questions from “Where’s the bathroom?”, to “What bird is that?”. Visitor center volunteers help collect day use fees, sell gift store items, loan out binoculars, and answer telephones. They also assist visitors in interpreting the exhibits and planning their hikes.

    A number of volunteers lead regularly-scheduled tours of the Reserve trails on weekends or sign up to lead specially-scheduled tours throughout the week. Volunteers use interpretive skills to foster a caring connection between visitors and the natural world. They introduce visitors to new information, reinforce important concepts in environmental conservation and stewardship, and interpret the process and results of scientific research that bears on issues affecting Elkhorn Slough and its watershed.
    Volunteers assist with other educational activities such as on-site special events, K-12 school programs, youth programs (scouts, after-school clubs), and off-site community outreach. The Reserve volunteer program works in partnership with many other agencies and volunteer organizations in the Monterey Bay area.

    Habitat restoration and protection requires hours of hand labor. Volunteers assist with the restoration of native habitats through exotic species control, native seed collection and propagation, planting, erosion control, and maintenance of wildlife watering devices. Furthermore, volunteers help to educate visitors on how best to minimize their impacts on the Reserve. An example is our effort to prevent the spread of diseases, such as Sudden Oak Death, by using the Reserve’s foot wash station.

    Volunteers have assisted with the propagation and planting-out of tens of thousand of acorns, native grasses, herbs, and shrubs, the majority of which were propagated with volunteer help at the Reserve’s native plant nursery. Much of the native landscaping around the Visitor Center and administration building is maintained by volunteers.
    Volunteers assist with stewardship-related service activities such as beach, boat access, and roadside clean-ups, and other habitat restoration projects in the watershed.

    Research and Monitoring

    Volunteers assist with field, lab, and computer work related to many of the Reserve’s research and monitoring projects. Without volunteers, the Reserve would not be able to carry out several research projects, including bird monitoring which requires hours of field data collection, data entry, and coordination. In addition to birds, volunteers help to monitor amphibians, including some endangered species. One dedicated volunteer has been responsible for monitoring 24 water quality stations in the watershed since 1988.

    The Elkhorn Slough volunteers can be a source of support for visiting researchers. For example, if additional hands are needed to pull a seine or time-consuming lab work is required to be done in a short amount of time, the volunteer corps is contacted for recruits.
    Volunteers have also been involved in researching and archiving the slough's historical records and other data.

    Volunteers help maintain and repair the Reserve’s trails, signs, landscaping, buildings, levees and other structures. During staffing shortages, volunteers have been essential to the Reserve’s ability to remain open to the public.

    Administrative Support

    Volunteers answer phones, provide clerical support, maintain electronic databases, assist with mailings, and produce and distribute a volunteer newsletter. Volunteers also oversee and maintain the Reserve’s lending library.

    Program Components


    “Volunteer managers must be concerned with developing valuable, meaningful assignments and matching volunteers with them, and they are being challenged to recruit, orient, recognize, and supervise a diverse and nontraditional volunteer pool. Volunteer management is becoming increasingly professional, with a literature base, professional societies, and formal education.” (Kerka, 1998)

    The Volunteer Coordinator is responsible for recruitment, training, placement, and supervision of volunteers. The Coordinator assists staff requesting volunteers, maintains personnel records of all volunteers, and organizes volunteer recognition events. Reserve staff provide direction for specific activities and act as immediate supervisors for volunteers working within their program area.
    The Volunteer Coordinator serves as a communication conduit to volunteers regarding educational programs and ongoing workplace meetings to facilitate the interaction between staff and volunteers. The Coordinator is responsible for updating and maintaining the “Docent Handbook” which helps define the policies and procedures that affect the volunteers.
    Additionally, the Coordinator manages a volunteer office (the “Docent Den”), oversees the production of a volunteer newsletter, supervises regular volunteer meetings, and organizes bulletin board and email postings to highlight events on and around the Reserve.

    The Volunteer Coordinator recruits volunteers using press releases, the Reserve’s website, the volunteer newsletter, and other marketing materials. Most people are motivated to volunteer because of their experiences from having visited the Reserve and walking the trails, attending a guided walk or special event, or through interactions with staff and current volunteers.


    Completion of a nine week training course is required for anyone to participate in the formal volunteer program. Those wishing to be a Reserve volunteer submit a written application in advance of the training. If accepted, they participate in the training, which covers everything from Reserve administration, interpretive skills, and standards of volunteer conduct, to cultural and natural history of the watershed. The training strives to reveal how hands-on discovery and a personal connection with nature contribute to conservation behaviors. Additionally, the training period helps develop a sense of community among the new volunteers.

    Community members are also allowed to volunteer as temporary service workers (TSW) for specific projects. TSWs are volunteers who have conflicts with the yearly training program, who want to volunteer during the interim between scheduled trainings, or who attend one of the many “Stewardship Days” offered as one-time volunteer opportunities. TSWs receive an orientation course on safety and conduct protocols, but cannot act as interpreters on tours or in the visitor center. TSWs are encouraged to complete the Reserve’s volunteer training program and until they do so, their participation as a volunteer must be periodically reviewed to renew their TSW status.

    Volunteers agree to honor a written commitment of 100 service hours during their first year. To remain on the list of approved volunteers, 50 hours of service per year are required in years subsequent to their first year.

    Risk Management

    Although we strive to maintain a safe work environment, risk management is an essential component of the modern work place. The “Docent Handbook” presents safety guidelines to volunteers. The DFG provides California Workers Compensation coverage for volunteers working on the Reserve.


    Upon completion of the training course, volunteers receive a certificate, official name tag, and privileged access to the Reserve. Reserve staff shows their appreciation of all volunteers annually at an awards ceremony and dinner. The volunteer coordinator, Reserve and ESF staff collaborate to maintain a culture where volunteers feel welcomed, supported, and appreciated throughout the year.

    E. Staffing and Working Groups

    Current Staffing

    The Volunteer Program is administered by a full-time, DFG-employed, Volunteer Coordinator who works within the Reserve’s Education Program.

    Staffing Needs

    See Chapter XVI.

    Working Groups

    The Volunteer Coordinator is involved in the following ESNERR strategic planning working groups:

    1. Internship (lead)

    2. Education

    3. Monitoring

    4. Public Information

    F. Guiding Documents and References

    Kerka, Sandra 1998. Volunteer Management. Trends and Issues Alerts. ERIC Clearinghouse on Adult, Career, and Vocational Education, Columbus, OH.

    Silberstein, Mark and Ferguson, Ava 1991. The Elkhorn Slough Reader: A compilation of Articles for the Elkhorn Slough Interpretive Guides. Introduction: page 1
    XVI. Education Program Overview
    A. NERR Education Plan

    The reserve system provides a vehicle to increase understanding and awareness of estuarine systems and improve decision-making among key audiences to promote stewardship of the nation’s coastal resources. Education and interpretation in the reserves incorporates a range of programs and methodologies that are systematically tailored to key audiences around priority coastal resource issues and incorporate science-based content. Reserve staff members work with local communities and regional groups to address coastal resource management issues, such as non-point source pollution, habitat restoration and invasive species. Through integrated research and education programs, the reserves help communities develop strategies to deal successfully with these coastal resource issues.

    Formal and non-formal education and training programs in the NERRS target K-12 students, teachers, university and college students and faculty, as well as coastal decision-maker audiences such as environmental groups, professionals involved in coastal resource management, municipal and county zoning boards, planners, elected officials, landscapers, eco-tour operators and professional associations.

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