Scientific information about unique habitats, rare plants and animals, water supply, and agriculture provides the basis for sound conservation planning in the Tulare Basin.
This important region features 39 distinct habitats with some of the greatest plant and animal diversity found anywhere in California. In the Tulare Basin, one can find freshwater lakes and saline wetlands set amidst desert scrub and alkali grassland, interspersed with riparian forest, oak woodlands, and vernal pools.
The unique contrast of wet and dry environments created by this diversity of habitats provides homes for hundreds of plant and animal species. The state and federal government classifies 125 of these unique species as threatened, endangered, species of special concern, or sensitive. Some of these plants and animals are only found in the Tulare Basin and nowhere else.
How much, where, and when water flows into the Tulare Basin determines the viability of water-dependent habitats and the plants and animals that live there. The Tulare Basin receives water from the four most southern rivers in the Sierra Nevada: the Kings, Kaweah, Tule, and Kern rivers. While these rivers generally run in their historic courses, dams, canals, and other structures control their flow. One significant waterway, Deer Creek, winds undammed from the Sierra Nevada to the Tulare Basin.
Farmers and ranchers work the land in this agriculturally diverse area, providing food and other commodities for domestic consumption and export. The Tulare Basin hosts three of the top five counties in agricultural sales nationally. From dairy cows to livestock grazing, row crops to orchards, over 320 different crops grow in soils ranging from highly fertile and productive in the east to marginal with poor water quality in the west. On some farms, wildlife-friendly agriculture provides important foraging areas for birds like the sandhill crane (Grus canadensis).
Understanding the roles that habitats, rare species, water, and agriculture play in relation to one another and within the Tulare Basin, enables federal, state and local agencies; non-profit organizations, and private landowners to make informed decisions when planning or implementing projects in this special place. Choose one of these topics at left for more information.