Natomas Basin Conservancy Board Chair John Shirey announced today that with the recent acquisition by the Conservancy of a 185-acre parcel of mitigation land, the Conservancy has assembled a 2,500-acre contiguous preserve in the Natomas Basin. Acquiring a contiguous 2,500-acre assemblage of mitigation land is a critical compliance requirement of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP). It was achieved decades ahead of schedule.
“This is a significant development since it confirms the approach the Conservancy has been using to implement the NBHCP” noted Shirey. “With development in the Natomas Basin reducing habitat for the NBHCP’s “Covered Species,” it’s gratifying to be able to identify mitigation land approvable by the State and federal government’s Wildlife Agencies, make the acquisition, then integrate that property into the NBHCP’s operating conservation plan.”
With the acquisition of the 185-acre Lauppe North tract in the Conservancy’s North Basin Reserve Area, the Conservancy was able to add the property to other contiguous properties to achieve the 2,500-acre assemblage. A key compliance metric in the NBHCP is for the Conservancy to acquire approved mitigation land that is adjacent (contiguous) and that totals at least 2,500 acres. According to the NBHCP, the reason for the requirement is that each acre of contiguous property typically yields superior wildlife benefit compared to fragmented, smaller preserves.
The challenge of assembling 2,500 contiguous acres of approved mitigation land under the NBHCP was a topic covered in the last federal litigation over the NBHCP (NWF v. Norton, September 7, 2005). “It was generally conceded that achieving this requirement would be a challenge,” noted Conservancy Executive Director John Roberts. “But senior officials with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service stated convincingly at the time that while this would be a challenging goal, it was achievable.” He further noted, “The Conservancy is pleased it was able to perform on this requirement, and in the process, provide still more valuable sanctuary for Covered Species to retreat to as they are displaced by urban activity.”
In addition to the 2,500-acre preserve, all other NBHCP mitigation land must be assembled in at least 400-acre contiguous properties. The Conservancy continues to work on completing these as it approaches the halfway mark in NBHCP implementation.
Achieving the 2,500 contiguous preserve goal is essential to maintaining the integrity of “incidental take permits” held by the City of Sacramento, County of Sutter and Metro Air Park. Without compliance with this and certain other metrics in the NBHCP, urbanization in the Natomas Basin would be in conflict with the State and federal endangered species acts.
The 22 Covered Species protected by the NBHCP include the Swainson’s hawk and the Giant garter snake. There are 20 other secondary species considered as secondary in the NBHCP.
The Conservancy is the “Plan Operator” of the NBHCP and the Metro Air Park HCP. It is a private, non-profit public benefit corporation that has been up and running since 1998.