An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Endangered species flourish at Travis AFB

  • Published
  • By Nick DeCicco
  • 60th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
"This is a detective job," said Ray Hasey as he hunched over and examined a yellow Contra Costa goldfields flower.

Hasey recently examined a patch of them that grew on the northwest side of the base where vacant homes were damaged in a 2008 fire and demolished in 2009. He took a closer look because the flowers are considered endangered according to the federal government.

The goldfields are one of three types of threatened or endangered species that make their home at Travis, along with the California tiger salamander and the vernal pool fairy shrimp.

On this April morning, Hasey traversed the patch of flowers, which wind through a meadow almost precisely where a road used to be, curling toward the edge of the base's perimeter fence and making a sharp northerly turn where the street used to be.

These streets were once Barksdale Court and Bond Street, according to Violet Kaufman, 60th Civil Engineer Squadron project manager. Earlier generations of Travis citizens lived in homes along these roads. Now they are planned to become part of a park near the youth center and Twin Peaks Chapel.

Hasey walked the land to gauge the size of the discovery. While most of the find followed the area where a road used to be, he found single flowers popping up throughout the grass fields near Armstrong and Forbes Streets.

"It's OK to walk on them, but picking one is a $25,000 fine," he said as he bent over to take a closer look.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists the flower as endangered. It is native to California, with small, yellow pedals surrounding a dark, circular, yellow center.

Hasey theorizes that the goldfields' seeds thrived underneath the pavement since the roads were laid in the latter part of the 1950s.

The flower thrives in vernal pools, which are temporary bodies of water. Hasey suspects water would seep into the dirt and allow the seeds to survive. Once the roads were removed, the plant was allowed to flourish once again.

Hasey estimates that approximately 10 percent of the planet's population of Contra Costa goldfields makes its home at Travis. The discovery is one of several places where the plant blooms annually at Travis, along with the southeast side of the flightline, the west end of Hangar Avenue and other spots.

At the bend where Barksdale Court used to meet Bond Street near the newly discovered Contra Costa goldfields patch is a gopher hole, the likes of which Hasey said the California tiger salamander makes its home.

The Fish and Wildlife Service lists the salamander as threatened for all locations except California's Sonoma County and Santa Barbara County, where it is endangered.

A fully grown salamander is typically black, seven to eight inches long and its skin is covered in yellow stripes or dots. Theoretically, the entire base is the salamander's habitat, although Hasey said most only travel approximately 1.3 miles.

They feed on earthworms, snails, insects, fish and even small mammals, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.

The salamander breeds by a water tower on the north side of the base and migrates twice annually. The animal typically only comes out at night or during rainstorms, Hasey said.

Hasey said Travis is the only place where urban development has occurred without killing the salamander. He attributes this to controlled use of pesticides, regulations for dogs and cats and, primarily, higher, rolled curbs on the sidewalks, which deters the salamander from slipping into storm drains.

The last of the three endangered species native to Travis is the vernal pool fairy shrimp, a freshwater crustacean that Hasey said is similar to a brine shrimp. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service lists it as threatened.

The shrimp are typically 10.9 to 25 milimeters long and nearly translucent, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service. They thrive in Travis' vernal pools and swales, which are marsh-type areas.

The vernal pools and grassland prairies at Travis are part of the Greater Jepson Prairie Ecosystem, Hasey said. It's the habitat of the Contra Costa goldfields, California tiger salamander and vernal pool fairy shrimp, a place where the species thrive and survive.

Protection of the land is the top priority for the preservation of these species, Hasey said.

"The fundamental conservation at Travis is wetlands conservation," Hasey said. "If we project the wetlands, we protect everything."