MOSS LANDING — The wildlife of Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve made itself known Friday morning to a crowd celebrating the site’s designation as a Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention.
Seabirds of various sizes and shapes passed by the ceremony, held at the reserve’s Hester Marsh. Marine life swam through the slough itself and as Congressman Jimmy Panetta began to speak, a flock of pelicans flew in formation right overhead.
“How lucky we are to call this home,” Panetta said. “There’s really no other place like it on earth.”
Panetta, along with Senator Bill Monning, Assemblyman Mark Stone and representatives from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), congratulated Elkhorn Slough’s staff and volunteers for the special appointment.
The slough joins 38 other wetland sites — six of them in California — and more than 2,330 sites worldwide that are part of the Ramsar Convention; the global network is designated under the world’s oldest international environmental treaty which was first signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.
“This slough is teeming with life,” said Jody Holzworth, deputy regional director for the Pacific Southwest Regions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “It is a magical place, and it’s absolutely incredible to see what has been done to protect it.”
Elkhorn Slough Foundation Executive Director Mark Silberstein and Reserve Manager Dave Feliz were on hand at the ceremony Friday to emcee and introduce speakers, and then eventually receive a special plaque honoring the recognition.
“It’s an incredible honor, ” Silberstein said. “All the hard worked has really paid off.”
Elkhorn Slough is currently in the midst of a restoration project to protect Hester Marsh through its Tidal Wetland Program. It, and many of the reserve’s programs and projects — both past and present — were explained during the ceremony.
Nicole LeBoeuf, acting assistant administrator for Ocean Services and Coastal Zone Management of NOAA, explained the importance of places like Elkhorn Slough, emphasizing in particular its role in educating and inspiring future generations.
A freight train rolls through Elkhorn Slough Friday. Photo by Tarmo Hannula/Register-Pajaronian
“You never know what will happen when a child visits Elkhorn Slough,” LeBoeuf said. “When they come with their school and pick up a pair of binoculars — this is an outdoor, living classroom.”
To be designated as part of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, a site must fulfill at least one of nine criteria, including hosting more than 20,000 shorebirds at once and supporting threatened species.
Elkhorn Slough fulfills all nine.
“The diversity of life here is truly impressive,” LeBoeuf said. “We bear the responsibility to keep it protected and inspire others to do the same.”
For information on Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine, including current programs and visitor information, visit elkhornslough.org. To learn about the Ramsar Convention Wetlands of International Importance, visit ramsar.org.