The core of the Conaway Ranch wildlife friendly farming philosophy is captured in the Conaway Wildlife Plan. Written in 1990 under Steve Gidaro's direction, it has been in place for more than 18 years, being updated and revised annually to better meet the needs of wildlife. Examples of wildlife friendly farming practices include:
- When ditches are cleaned on the ranch, vegetation is removed from only one side of the ditch with the other side providing important cover and habitat for wildlife.
- Broad application of herbicides is not allowed between road edges and crop fields. This is to allow small islands and corridors of wildlife habitat to be interspersed between crop fields to provide safe havens for birds and mammals.
- Spot spraying of particularly noxious weeds such as star thistle must be completed in early spring before waterfowl and upload game birds begin nesting to avoid disturbance to incubating hens.
- Where possible, perennial grass cover is planted on roadsides to provide nessting and escape cover for birds and other wildlife. This is done to minimize encroachment of noxious weeds that require chemical controls.
- Lease farmers cutting alfalfa are required to use flushing bars on their swathers to prevent incubating hens from being killed. This serves the hens, and where possible the surviving eggs are donated to the egg salvagge programs throughout the Central Valley.
- Idle set-aside fields are scattered throughout the ranch and left unfarmed from March to August to provide safe nesting cover for ducks, pheasants, and other ground-nesting birds.
- Brood ponds are managed at strategic locations throughout the ranch from March to August to provide rearing habitat for ducklings and other wetland-dependent species.
- As rice fields are drained in mid to late August to allow harvest, drain water is moved to other farm fields to provide early migration habitat for waterfowl migrating down from Canada and Alaska.
- Food crops for wildlife are specifically planted for wildlife including seed crops (corn and milo) and moist soil plants such as water grass, smartweek, sprangle top, and bulrush. These fields are flooded in the fall to provide feed for wintering waterfowl.
- Winter water for waterfowl is provided by flooding roughly 7,000 acres of rice stubble providing one of the most significant feeding and nesting stops on the Pacific Flyway.
Review the Conaway Wildlife Plan here.