Legislature Adopts New Approach to Conservation Planning and Mitigation

Late last night the California Legislature passed AB 2087 (Levine), which provides the legal authority for the creation of advanced mitigation credits based on Regional Conservation Investment Strategies approved by the Department of Fish and Wildlife.  These conservation strategies, while voluntary and non-regulatory, can be used to:

  • Guide investments in resource conservation
  • Guide infrastructure design and siting
  • Identify conservation priorities, including those needed to address climate change
  • Identify potential mitigation for impacts to wildlife and habitat

How AB 2087 Works

Regional Conservation Investment Strategies (RCIS) can be developed by any public agency if a state agency agrees that the strategy would contribute to meeting state goals related to (1) conservation and (2) infrastructure or forest management.   Mitigation credit agreements, based on an approved RCIS, would provide a way to link mitigation to larger conservation goals and reduce the transaction costs and time required to meet mitigation requirements.

Regional advanced mitigation programs (RAMP) have been a goal of the conservation community for years in order to improve the conservation value and effectiveness of project mitigation.  AB 2087 provides a means to achieve this goal.

AB 2087 was sponsored by The Nature Conservancy, with strong support from Audubon California, Defenders of Wildlife and numerous other environmental organizations.  The bill was developed by Conservation Strategy Group (CSG) in close cooperation with the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW), the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research (OPR), and other state agencies.

A New Approach

Unlike other conservation planning tools such as Natural Community Conservation Plans and Habitat Conservation Plans, an RCIS does not permit development or projects or designate areas for conservation, instead it provides a non-regulatory assessment and analysis of conservation needs within a region to guide future actions and allow infrastructure agencies to design and implement their projects to avoid impacts to wildlife and maximize the conservation value of their design and siting.  Mitigation credit agreements provide a method to establish on-going funding streams, derived from project mitigation, for actions to protect high priority conservation areas within an RCIS.

Pilot Projects

The bill has a sunset date of 2020 to allow the Legislature to review progress on this new program and limits the number of regional plans that may be approved to 8 within that timeframe.  Currently there are 4 regional pilots under development, testing the use of regional strategies in a number of different settings:

  • Two pilots in the San Francisco Bay Area, led by The Nature Conservancy, are linked to local transportation investments and the Sustainable Communities Strategy.
  • In Yolo County, CSG is working with local and state agencies to find ways to better achieve multiple objectives in flood management and wildlife conservation.
  • In Antelope Valley (LA County) local and state agencies, along with environmental groups, infrastructure agencies and business groups are developing a strategy to address conservation needs in an area facing both infrastructure and renewable energy development.

With support from the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation and The Nature Conservancy, CSG developed the concept behind AB 2087 and has coordinated the effort to enact it into law with a broad environmental coalition.  Graham Chisholm, Senior Policy Advisor at CSG is serving as project manager for the 4 pilot projects with the goal of submitting Regional Strategies to the DFW in 2017.

We are currently working to identify additional pilots around the state that can address key conservation issues, including climate and greenhouse gas impacts, natural and working land conservation, and rural urban connections.

For more information on AB 2087 and Regional Conservation Investment Strategies please contact Joe Caves at joe@csgcalifornia.com or Graham Chisholm at graham@csgcalifornia.com. To learn about other CSG projects and services check out www.csgcalifornia.com. To stay up to date on major policy issues in California, sign up for our Policy Blog emails here.


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