California Wildlife Action Plan

By the Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

California’s Wildlife Action Plan was developed as a reference for conservationists and the general public alike. The mission was to draw upon decades of conservation efforts and to recommend conservation actions based on sound science and stakeholder involvement. The Action Plan continues an ecosystem approach to conservation issues that recognizes the interdependence of multiple species and their habitats. The Action Plan also considers the needs of select species inhabiting a particular region of the state.

The Action Plan looks at 807 vulnerable wildlife species and what actions are likely to ensure their survival. It is largely based on the idea that the best strategy the state can implement is to expand the study of species and habitats – in order to answer such questions as: What are the species and habitats in greatest conservation need and where are they found? And what is threatening their survival and how can we effectively work together to strengthen conservation actions?

California's plan identifies five key issues:

  1. Integrating wildlife conservation into local land-use decisions;
  2. Restoring and conserving riparian habitats;
  3. Providing essential water for wildlife;
  4. Controlling invasive species; and
  5. Expanding conservation education.

The Action Plan is organized into nine geographic regions. To complement the plan, a user-friendly website was created to provide conservationists with digital maps depicting the regions of the state where various species are found.


California’s land mass spans more than 158,000 square miles. Water resources include 4,955 lakes and reservoirs, 103 major streams, and 74 major rivers.

Wildlife Highlights 

Island foxes are recovering on several Channel Islands, the only place in the world where they are found. Fairy shrimp exist in California’s remaining vernal pools. Millions of reddish-orange Monarch butterflies continue their migration from Mexico to California’s central coast each year. Abalone, a native species of the California coast, cling to rocks and wave-swept ledges. And the Common murre can dive to depths of more than 300 feet to catch squid and fish.

Primary Challenges to Conserving Wildlife in California

California’s Wildlife Action Plan identifies four primary statewide threats or "stressors" – each with major consequences for species, ecosystems and habitats. Additional threats were also identified on a region-by-region basis. Growth and development, water management conflicts and invasive species have all contributed to the decline in the state’s wildlife species.

Development Pressures

Human activities like population growth and development have placed even greater demands on the state’s land, water and other natural resources. Without conservation planning, development can eliminate or fragment important habitats, decrease the quality of remaining natural areas, and disrupt fish and wildlife migration routes.

Limited Water Resources

Limited water resources are stretched between meeting the demands of residential and agricultural land uses, and securing enough water for wildlife. The operation of dams and water diversions and other causes have also reduced the amount of water available for fish and wildlife in certain areas of the state, including many species of concern. Coordinated water planning and advances in technology can help with the allocation of water for wildlife.

Invasive Species

Invasive species, including animals, plants and pathogens rank among the major statewide threats affecting California’s native wildlife. Invasive plants (more than a thousand types) such as medusahead and French broom pose a direct threat to animals by producing harmful awns and seeds. Many key habitats are under siege by nonnative species that invade and take over ecosystems, resulting in a lack of nutritional forage for animals.

Working Together for California’s Wildlife

California’s Wildlife Action Plan was developed for the California Department of Fish and Game in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Game and the Wildlife Health Center at the University of California, Davis. The plan was created with a broad array of conservation partners, including The Nature Conservancy, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited, Water Education Foundation, Trout Unlimited, Natural Resource Conservation Service, California Waterfowl Association, Resource Land Owners Coalition, Riparian Habitat Joint Venture, and many others.

Nine regional public workshops, attended by more than 740 people, were held to discuss conservation issues, wildlife needs, and current conservation activities. Stakeholders also participated in another series of seven action workshops held throughout the state. Each one included between 20 and 30 conservation experts representing government agencies, universities, and outdoors and conservation organizations. The overall goal of these workshops was to identify ways to protect and preserve habitat for California’s threatened species. The product of these efforts, California’s Wildlife Action Plan, represents the consolidation of these wildlife management ideas.


The Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies represents all of North America’s fish and wildlife agencies, promotes sound management and conservation, and speaks with a unified voice on important fish and wildlife issues.


Contribute to LandScope

Want to join, work with us or simply find out more? Learn how you can get involved.


Copyright © 2024 NatureServe. All Rights Reserved.