Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
The San Joaquin Valley of California is a region of immense biological diversity, and includes a number of endemic species and unique biotic communities. Due to profound habitat loss and degradation, numerous plant and animal species are considered sensitive, and many are receiving formal Federal and State protection. The endangered San Joaquin kit fox is used as an "umbrella" species in conservation and recovery efforts for many of those species. The kit fox used to be found throughout the San Joaquin Valley but most of the valley floor has come under irrigated cultivation inside the past 100 years. The largest populations now are found on uncultivated rangelands around the periphery of the valley, with smaller groups of foxes on isolated habitat fragments on the valley floor. The recovery strategy emphasizes protection and management of three geographically-distinct core populations. A number of smaller populations will be fostered in adjacent valleys through habitat management on public land and conservation agreements with private land owners. To enhance connectivity in this fragmented landscape, conservation lands on the valley floor may be increased in size through acquisition of title or conservation easements. Another complementary approach is to reduce the level of isolation by promoting conservation of kit foxes on agricultural lands through "safe harbor" and other initiatives. Concurrently, strategic retirement of agricultural lands that have serious drainage problems will help ameliorate the effects of widespread habitat fragmentation.