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 Fishermans Lake is
home to many species including both the Swainsons 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 Fishermans 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.]
Fishermans 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.
Fishermans Lake is especially important to preserve and restore because:
it is in the Swainsons 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
area is not zoned for development;
it supports both upland and wetland species;
it is part of the historic slough linking the American Lakes
view of the area.