The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced that it has approved a Habitat Conservation Plan and related environmental documents that allow for planned urban development and conservation of habitat for nearly two-dozen protected species in the 53,537-acre Natomas Basin area of Sacramento and Sutter counties. including the preservation and restoration of habitat that will be held and managed in perpetuity by the Natomas Basin Conservancy. As part of the conservation plan, the Service has granted permits to the City of Sacramento, Sutter County and the Natomas Basin Conservancy for the “incidental take” of 22 threatened, endangered or special-status species resulting from development, farm activities, and habitat restoration and management in the Natomas Basin.
Federally-listed species covered by the Natomas Basin HCP are the threatened giant garter snake, the valley elderberry longhorn beetle, the vernal pool fairy shrimp, Colusa grass and slender Orcutt grass, and the endangered vernal pool tadpole shrimp and Sacramento Orcutt grass.
The HCP area comprises the entire 53,537-acre Natomas Basin within both Sacramento and Sutter counties. Under the HCP, developers will be allowed to construct projects in defined areas of the Natomas Basin totaling 15,517 acres. In return, each developer must comply with avoidance and mitigation measures and pay a fee adequate to cover the costs of acquiring, restoring and managing one-half acre of habitat for every acre of land developed. Habitat lands would be acquired and managed by the Conservancy, with funding provided by developers.
Among the documents the Service approved late Friday were a final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision under the National Environmental Policy Act, an agreement between the Service and the other agencies to carry out the conservation plan, and incidental take permits under the Endangered Species Act. With the completion of these federal documents, the California Department of Fish and Game is expected to act on its issuance of State Endangered Species Act permits for the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan area.