SAWA: 20 Years of Leadership in Habitat Restoration Services

SAWA has been a leader in native habitat restoration and invasive non-native plant removal for over 20 years, and currently manages riparian habitat restoration projects at more than 50 locations in the Santa Ana River Watershed, including at conservation easements and development sites. SAWA has removed more than 5,000 acres of invasive non-native plants from the Santa Ana Watershed while providing restoration and biological monitoring services that benefit regulatory agencies, developers, cities, counties and other entities.

With a veteran staff of habitat restoration specialists and biologists, SAWA conducts environmental management projects, working collaboratively with governmental agencies, organizations, and private citizens.  This includes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the state Department of Water Resources and the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB).

CDFW has recognized SAWA expertise in the field of habitat restoration, which includes BMPs for the removal and disposal of vegetative list species, in issuing SAWA a 10-year 1600 permit to perform invasive plant removal projects anywhere in the Santa Ana Watershed.  SAWA’s manager has been recognized by the California Invasive Plant Council for his leadership in the development of environmentally preferred means of invasive plant removals and habitat registration, by awarding him the “Golden Weed Wrench Award” in 2013 which is awarded to the California land manager of the year. He also sits on an advisory board for the State dealing with Integrated Pest Management Plans.

SAWA has been recognized by Congress and the California State legislature for its environmental leadership in the Santa Ana Watershed. This leadership has prompted such environmental regulatory agencies such as US Fish and Wildlife Service, US Forest Service, Natural Resources Conservation Service, US Army Corps of Engineers and the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority to contract SAWA to provide environmental services on their behalf.

SAWA staff strives to restore the natural functions of the Santa Ana River watershed through the enhancement and restoration of the native riparian community, removing exotic, invasive species and managing existing resources, including water, plants and wildlife. While providing restoration services, SAWA implements facets of the Santa Ana River Watershed Program, continuously restoring natural functions and resources of the river and its tributaries.

Work accomplished on the ground is done by SAWA staff and its partnering agencies. The SAWA Restoration Department spends thousands of hours in the field every year, monitoring and treating its large project areas, and monitoring the work of and progress of subcontractors. The crew also assists biologists with annual vireo assessments and documents the progress of removal and restoration projects.

In addition to its highly trained habitat restoration crews, has on staff no less than 15 biologists, many of whom have master's degrees in biology and who hold permits to monitor and handle various wildlife species. Additionally, SAWA hires seasonal biologist assistants to help with trapping of brown headed cowbirds in the watershed.

Click on the links to the right for detailed information on the habitat restoration services we provide.

For service inquiries, contact Project Manager James Law at 951 780-1012, or via email