Fisherman's Lake Preserve and Restoration

Fisherman's Lake is located in the Natomas area of Sacramento, west of 99 and south of I-5, within a mile of the Sacramento River. The historic slough called Fisherman’s Lake is home to many species including both the Swainson’s Hawk and the endangered Giant Garter Snake. In the original 1986 Environmental Impact Report for the North Natomas Community Plan, the Fisherman's Lake area and surrounding farmlands were recognized as habitat lands that should be protected to mitigate for the impacts of the development of the NNCP area.

The original Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan adopted in 1997 lacked any real protections for the Fisherman's Lake area and did not require establishment of a wildlife preserve there.

The settlement of litigation between the City of Sacramento and six environmental plaintiffs including FOSH (NWF et al v. Babbitt; FOSH v. CDFG) included a commitment by the City to acquire and protect habitat at Fisherman's Lake. This project began with the acquisition of 250 acres by NBC in several separate parcels. Natomas Basin Conservancy has done habitat restoration and is managing properties for both wetland and upland species, and has added additional farmlands to the preserve area. However the Fisherman's Lake Preserve still does not meet the 400 minimum acre size required in the 2003 NBHCP.

In 2005 the issue of the buffer along the east side of Fisherman's Lake, south of Del Paso was resolved by the Sacramento City Council. There was a long battle in which, landowners pushed to build houses into the safety zone for nesting Swainson's Hawks. The width and management of buffer on the east side between suburbs and Fisherman's Lake will be a critical factor in the preserve's success. The City required the redesign of the Natomas Central community to provide a water buffer between homes and the preserve, and a land buffer to include additional native vegetation and trees.

North of Del Paso Road, just west of Westlake, lies "West Lakeside", another controversial part of Fisherman's Lake. The owner, AKT Development, has long pressured the City of Sacramento to allow annexation and home building on this property. In 2007, AKT Development sold 40 acres to the Natomas Unified School District in one of the most scandelous and controversial land deals in Sacramento's history. The sale is still being litigated.

Management of the west bank of Fisherman's Lake, south of Del Paso, has also been an ongoing issue with RD 1000. Pictured at left, top,is a part of Fisherman’s Lake early in April 1998. Soon afterwards, the abundant vegetation on the right was sheared away, leaving the west bankside exposed and dangerous for Giant Garter Snakes who require early morning basking on the west side to raise body temperature and can be vulnerable to attack by predators without cover. Shown at left, middle,is a view of this area right after mowing in 1998, showing the degradation of habitat. The bottom picture in the series is an older one, showing the more natural values of the area. [Photo by George Hansen.]

Fisherman’s Lake is an unusual preserve for Natomas Basin because it is located close to the growing suburban population, on the edge between urban and agricultural uses. Special care must be taken for the species, and special opportunities abound for involving the community in the preserve. FOSH appreciates neighbors who are monitoring and protecting the area.

Fisherman’s Lake is especially important to preserve and restore because:
• it is in the Swainson’s Hawk zone, an area of concentrated nesting;
• it is identified in all major environmental studies and recommended by GGS experts as habitat that should be preserved;
• airport buffer lands near the preserve provide cumulative species benefit;
• area is not zoned for development;
• it supports both upland and wetland species;
• it is part of the historic slough linking the American Lakes

Aerial view of the area.