Calif rice farmers helping migratory birds

WILLIAMS, Calif. (AP) -- The hundreds of vast, flooded rice paddies that cover miles of interior northern California may seem like an unlikely safe haven for shorebirds, but changes there may help improve the outlook for dozens of species in decline in recent decades.

So far, more than 165 rice farmers have signed up for an incentive program -- funded by the U.S. Natural Resources Conservation Service -- that will build a system of islands and other habitat improvements in their paddies, providing birds a place to rest, feed and breed.

It will take at least two years of gathering data for scientists ascertain whether they are on to something, but they are grateful to the farmers for allowing the experiment, which covers a fraction of the state's rice paddies, to occur at all.

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