Petaluma residents know that we have some world class wildlife on our doorstep. The wetlands along the Petaluma River, from the Marina to Alman Marsh, Shollenberger and Ellis Creek are teeming with life.

Home to the endangered salt marsh harvest mouse, river otter, deer, foxes and snakes, the area is perhaps most beloved by bird watchers who flock to the walking trails to spot egrets, red winged black birds and many other avian species.

Now Petaluma can truly tout the world class nature of our nature. The Petaluma Wetlands were recently added to the list of Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. The distinction gives us international clout and puts Petaluma in the same company with other sites around the globe, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest and the Mekong River Delta of Vietnam.

The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature, which maintains close ties with the United Nations through the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, keeps the list of sites that it feels are worthy of conservation efforts. While the designation does not come with additional funding, it is helpful as Petaluma wildlife advocates seek grants through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and other agencies.

In receiving the designation, the Petaluma Wetlands joins the 400,000-acre San Francisco Bay Estuary, which was awarded international status in 2013. It is in part a recognition that the Petaluma Wetlands are integrally tied to the larger tidal marshes along the North, East and South Bay.

The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, named after the Iranian city where it was held in 1971, “provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.” The convention’s mission is “the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world.”

By accepting membership in this group of more than 2,000 sites worldwide, it is up to us as stewards of our local wetlands to live up to these values and protect the Petaluma Wetlands.

A good example of local wetlands conservation is the Laguna de Santa Rosa Foundation, which formed in 1989 to protect the Sonoma County wetlands just to the north of us. The nonprofit has achieved many milestones in protecting and opening up the Laguna for recreation and education, including designation as a Wetland of International Importance in 2011.

The Petaluma Wetlands Alliance is our local nonprofit working to protect the wetlands, and is worthy of our support. To volunteer or donate to the Petaluma Wetlands Alliance, visit

Hopefully, Petaluma will add signs to Shollenberger Park celebrating our addition to the international list of important wetlands. It will remind us that this unique habitat is worth conserving for future generations to discover.