Federal and State Agencies Partner to Protect Thousands of Acres of Pristine Wildlife Habitat in Santa Clara County
August 12, 2013
Janice Mackey, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
(916) 322-8908, firstname.lastname@example.org
Sarah Swenty, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
(916) 414-6571, email@example.com
The final step in one of the most ambitious conservation efforts of the past decade in California has taken place. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) and California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) have issued permits for the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan (Plan). Broad in scope, the Plan provides a framework for protecting and recovering approximately 46,500 acres of habitat in a sensitive and ecologically unique area of our state. It will also streamline the environmental permitting process for covered activities conducted by local agencies in an area of approximately 460,000 acres.
A majority of the Coyote Valley ridgeline, the last stronghold of the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly and other threatened and endangered serpentine soil species, such as Coyote ceanothus, Santa Clara Valley dudleya, and most beautiful jewelflower, will be protected by the Plan. In total, 18 species will be protected. Nine of the 18 species are currently listed under the federal Endangered Species Act and four species are listed under the state Endangered Species Act.
“After a nearly decade long planning process, we are very pleased to have issued a Natural Community Conservation Plan permit for the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan,” said CDFW’s Acting Regional Manager for the Bay Delta Region Scott Wilson. “Reaching this milestone and beginning plan implementation speaks to the commitment and vision of many individuals and agencies who worked collaboratively on this important long-term conservation effort.”
With the Plan’s environmental safeguards in place, development and other activities covered are permitted to impact up to 17,975 acres over a period of 50 years. Plan funds will preserve new areas and contribute to the restoration and land management activities of parks, open space, ranches, and other private lands.
“Thanks to the collaborative efforts of everyone involved, we will be able to meet conservation goals important to the recovery of our trust species, and local agencies and governments will have a new streamlined process to help them make decisions for the benefit of both the people and the species that inhabit Santa Clara County,” said Jan Knight, Deputy Field Supervisor for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services’ Sacramento Field Office.
In addition to strengthening local control over the permitting process, the Plan creates a more efficient process for protecting and managing natural resources by creating habitat reserves. These reserves will be larger in scale and easier to manage for ecological values than smaller mitigation sites traditionally created for individual projects. It will also give landowners seeking project permits an increased certainty of timelines and associated costs.
More than a decade ago the Service suggested development of the Plan, when concerns about the threatened Bay checkerspot butterfly could have significantly delayed the proposal to add a third lane to Highway 101 between San Jose and Morgan Hill, a research facility in Coyote Valley and the Highway 85-101 interchange. Also of concern were impacts associated with contracts for importation of water from the Central Valley. The City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and the Santa Clara Valley Water District committed to preparing a federal Habitat Conservation Plan and a California Natural Community Conservation Plan. The cities of Gilroy and Morgan Hill joined the planning effort in 2005. The local agencies adopted the Plan over the last several months and federal and state permits were issued in late July. Implementation is expected to begin shortly.
Primary responsibility for implementation of the Plan’s conservation strategy rests with a joint powers agency, the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency. Mike Wasserman, Vice President of the County’s Board of Supervisors and Chair of the Habitat Agency’s Implementation Board, stressed the cost-efficiency of the Plan for both public and private projects in Santa Clara County. “Through the cooperation of local, state, and federal agencies, we have developed a new way to address impacts on natural resources that will avoid unnecessary costs and time-delays.”
For more information on the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, please visit http://www.scv-habitatplan.org.