$1.5 million campaign seeks to get more kids out to Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area

Interest in the Vic Fazio Yolo Wildlife Area, also known as the Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area, is so brisk that the Yolo Basin Foundation has had to turn away schools that seek to introduce students to the environmental value of the more than 16,000-acre habitat.

But that may change with the Yolo Basin Foundation’s announcement today of a three-year, $1.5 million campaign to increase outreach to the region’s youths.

The campaign is the foundation’s most ambitious to date. It seeks to ensure a sustainable future for its outreach programs while spurring new research activity in the basin, located in the Davis area.

“We want to enhance what has been a very successful project ... and we want to do more of it,” said Vic Fazio, co-chair of the campaign.

The basin was created in 1991, when the state’s Wildlife Conservation Board approved the purchase of 3,150 acres of bypass land. Fazio, then a U.S. congressman, sponsored a budget appropriation of $1.2 million in fiscal year 1990-91 to establish the area.

The area was renamed after Fazio in 1998 . It includes protected wetlands for threatened species of birds and other wildlife. The basin is a crucial stopover point for migratory and other birds along the Pacific Flyway.

As a member of the board of the National Parks Conservation Association, Fazio has seen the effect that environmental outreach has on urban students.

“More and more kids have no vision of what the natural world is like,” said Fazio. “I think this outreach is an important thing to do, especially for kids that live just over the levee.”

The foundation currently serves about 6,000 kindergartners to high school seniors yearly, Fazio said. The foundation hopes to increase that number by 50 percent, he said.

“We want to get more people in and guide them and help subsidize schools that are having a harder time finding the money to rent buses and other things they need to get to the bypass,” said Fazio.

Yolo Basin Foundation officials said that one-third of visiting students come from low-income Title I schools and receive grants for bus transportation.

The mostly all-volunteer foundation is the quasi-educational outreach arm of the state’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, said Jeffrey Stoddard, Yolo Bypass Wildlife Area manager.

“What the foundation does is something our staff in our area cannot do by ourselves,” said Stoddard.

The $1.5 million capital campaign also aims to increase research conducted on the bypass by endowing a fellowship at the university level, said Robin Kulakow, founder and executive director of the Yolo Basin Foundation. That fellowship will be endowed for work done at either the University of California, Davis, or Sacramento State. It will provide funding for 10 years, Kulakow said.

“There is other outreach that we want to start doing, like sending volunteers into classrooms,” she said.

Kulakow, who is stepping down as executive director this year, started the foundation in 1990.

To date, the campaign has already secured $250,000 from an anonymous donor and $150,000 from Kulakow and members of her family.

Call The Bee’s Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

How to help

For information or to contribute to the campaign, go to, call (530) 757-4842 or email