Tulare Planning Region

The Tulare Planning Region consists of the Tulare Basin and Carrizo Plain and is located at the southern end of the Central Valley. 

The Tulare Basin is the largest basin in the Central Valley, totaling approximately 6,655,000 acres bordered by the Coast Range to the west and the Sierra Nevada foothills to the east. The basin is 150 miles long, extending from the San Joaquin River on the north to the Sierra Madre and Tehachapi Mountains to the south.

The Carizzo Plain is a large, enclosed grassland plain on the southwestern edge of the Tulare basin which represents the largest native grassland remaining in California. Historically, the Tulare Basin contained the largest single block of freshwater wetlands in the United States west of the Great lakes, annually providing over 500,000 acres of permanent and seasonal wetlands.

During most years the basin functioned as a sink, where water from the Sierra Nevada flowed down a number of waterways, including the Kern, Kings and Tule River, which terminated in the large, shallow Tulare Lake. In addition, the rivers flowing out of the Sierra supported some of the largest contiguous stands of riparian forest in the Central Valley. Diversions of water for agriculture and municipal purposes ultimately drained the Tulare lakebed and allowed these wetlands to be reclaimed for agriculture.

Agriculture is now the predominant land use in the basin and wildlife friendly food crops are limited. The lakebed now remains dry in all but the wettest year, and the remaining wetland habitat in the basin is less than one percent of historical levels. 

Today, remaining wetlands are largely protected and managed by Kern National Wildlife Refuge Complex and Mendota State Wildlife Area. Some private wetlands remain in the vicinity of Kern NWR and many of those are protected with conservation easements. Surface and groundwater availability remains an issue for both public and private wetlands.

The once vast riparian forest stands have also been reclaimed for agriculture, with only remnant riparian habitat persisting along sections of the tributaries.