A bill (AB 1716) introduced in the California state Assembly would protect and improve the American River Parkway in Sacramento County.
The 5,000-acre Parkway stretches 23 miles, from Sacramento to Folsom.
The area is home to a wide variety of wildlife, from birds (California quail, heron, hawks, mallards) to gray squirrels, common snakes, rabbits, coyotes and skunks. Large mammals include mule deer and mountain lion, which can use the Parkway as a pathway between the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada.
Along and in the river are salmon and other fish species, river otter, and the western pond turtle.
The American River Parkway Foundation says habitats in the Parkway include emergent marsh, riparian forest, riparian scurb, grassland and oak woodland and oak savannah.
It's a popular area, with bike, walking, hiking and equestrian trails, and river access for boating and fishing.
The legislation, introduced by State Assemblyman Kevin McCarty (D-Sacramento) and Assemblyman Ken Cooley (D-Rancho Cordova) would create the Lower American River Conservancy.
"The American River Parkway is vitally important to the people, economy, and culture of the Sacramento region," said McCarty. "By establishing this conservancy, we will improve public access to Sacramento’s most important natural resource and preserve the surrounding habitat for future generations."
The American River Parkway gets $1 million a year from Measure A funds and receives an allocation from state bond and general funds allocated to rivers.
"Since 1996, of the $740 million of state bond and general funds allocated to rivers, $660 million has gone to rivers with state conservancies," says McCarty. "However, the American River has only received $3 million."
Dianna Poggetto, Executive Director of the American River Parkway Foundation, says creating the Lower American River Conservancy would make the Parkway eligible for additional state funding.
Poggetto says that money could pay to restore areas destroyed by wildfires and fund the creation of a natural resource management plan to guide that project and others in the future.
"We've had 400 acres burn over the last two years on the Parkway, almost 10 percent of it," says Poggetto. "Once those burns occur, what are our next steps? So to actually create that type of document [natural resource management plan] which then would talk about how we treat the land if something adverse happens to it."
A deer runs through a burned area off Northrup Ave. near the American River Parkway in August 2015 in Sacramento. Andrew Nixon / Capital Public Radio
She says the conservancy could help pay for deferred maintenance projects and to acquire land for expansion.
Poggetto says more than 8 million people a year visit the Parkway.
Hearings are expected to start in the spring on the bill to create the Lower American River Conservancy.
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