With federally initiated tasks of expanding restoration on lands and marine habitat in the U.S., wildlife conservation organizations now have a more important job than ever before. In April of 2022, the America the Beautiful Challenge was launched and included the Thirty-By-Thirty (30×30) initiative charging the Secretaries of the Departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Commerce along with the Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ) with the goal of conserving millions of acres of forested lands and restoring at least 30 percent of our lands and waters by 2030. Considering there are over 720 million acres of U.S. land and waters, this leaves much for state, federal, private, farm and ranch landowners a daunting task – the proverbial elephant that is conservation.

Over the past 8 years, CDA has worked to develop its habitat restoration program. When comparing year over year progression of work, CDA has exponentially grown from supporting great work on a few thousand acres to putting millions of acres of wildlife-driven habitat restoration into agreement and thousands of acres yearly on the ground throughout the state of California.

We continue to value the support and contributions we receive from our state and federal partners, private landowners and the multitude of funders that support the vision of CDA projects. One of the big puzzle pieces to be highlighted is the dynamic partnerships of wildlife conservation non-profits that share an imperative goal: working together to create an all-encompassing, positive impact on our wildlife, habitat, and to the land. To date, CDA has partnered with many organizations including National Wild Turkey Federation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Cal Trout, and other non-profits that have teamed up to do this much needed work.

Of the many collaborative projects CDA is currently working on, one partnership to note is with the National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF) on the Timber Transport project, a Keystone Agreement between the NWTF and the USDA Forest Service that includes over 6,000 acres of restoration in the Klamath National Forest. Once groundwork is complete, forest products will be transported by railcar as the second component of this multi-faceted approach to forest restoration. The logs must first be transported to Gilchrist Forest Products in Gilchrist, Oregon, where they will undergo debarking to eliminate bark beetles. The debarked logs will be inspected and then transported to a railyard in Klamath Falls, Oregon, where they will receive another inspection before being loaded onto railcars for transportation to Wyoming. The purpose of this is to shore up an at-risk community whose industry may shut down without an adequate supply chain. Without product, the area faces the possibility of being another statistic within the industry

Through multiple collaborative meetings with NWTF, USDA Forest Service, and California Deer Association, CDA began work in late March within the Antelope Fire burn scar as part of a 2,746-acre timber removal project in the Klamath National Forest in northern California. Along with the timber harvest, the project includes 1,605 acres of brush mowing and juniper felling, 592 acres of juniper reduction, 264 acres of plantation thinning, and 866 acres of mastication for fuel reduction and wildlife habitat enhancement work in the forest. The goal of the work being completed ranges from protection of wildlife from future wildfire to increased water quality and quantity as well increased benefits for deer, elk, and other species native to the area, to name a few.

“It’s fantastic to be a part of such an incredible partnership that is driven to get this much-needed work done,” said Dale MacDougall, California Deer Association State Project Director. “From the leadership and support from the USFS, both nationally and regionally, to the inviting nature and strength of the NWTF family, along with industry partners, the energy has been incredible. There are so many folks committed to carrying part of this workload, and all have done an incredible job in doing so. This is a perfect example of partners sharing a vision for large scale restoration for the benefit of wildlife, forest health, communities, and humans.”

Very seldom do collaborative partnerships come together in a single conversation. They are strategically built over time through effort, planning, and the vigor to not only take on, but the commitment to complete a shared goal – this is exactly what makes partnerships between conservation organizations so impactful. Dynamic partnerships like that of CDA and NWTF work to interlock pieces of a gigantic puzzle, and by working together, can complete the big picture efficiently. Because if the goal is to restore millions of acres across the United States, you must eat the proverbial elephant one bite at a time… but nothing is stopping dedicated folks from filling all the seats at the dinner table.