Standing on the edge of a marsh, Mark Silberstein takes in the sounds of birds in Elkhorn Slough Reserve near Moss Landing.
“These are elegant terns. Hear that? They’re looking for fish for breakfast,” he says as the birds chirp. Silberstein is Executive Director of the Elkhorn Slough Foundation. The non-profit helps preserve and support the slough.
He says receiving the honor of a Wetland of International Importance will draw attention to this hidden piece of the California coast.
“Elkhorn Slough is an extraordinary place. It harbors huge tracts of tidal salt marsh. It hosts the densest concentration of sea otters on the California coast. So this recognition I think highlights the tremendous ecological value of this place,” says Silberstein.
The designation comes from the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, so named for being signed in Ramsar, Iran in 1971. It recognizes globally-important wetlands.
To get it, a site must meet at least one of nine criteria. Those include things like supporting endangered species. Elkhorn Slough met all nine criteria.
Jody Holzworth is with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which help select sites for the honor. She says it doesn’t come with any direct funding, but there are benefits.
“Tourist interest and recreational interests that helps the local economy, and it helps the nonprofit groups fundraise better,” says Holzworth.
The designation was celebrated on Friday during a cermony on the Reserve's Hester Marsh.
More than 2300 sites worldwide have the designation of Wetland of International Importance. There are 38 in the United States and now seven in California, including the San Francisco Bay Estuary.