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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes
CARLSBAD  FWO: Red Mountain Conservation Bank Established to Benefit Coastal California Gnatcatcher and its Habitat
Region 8, January 18, 2011
Looking out over the Red Mountain Conservation Bank. (Photo by Sheryll Givens/TRS)
Looking out over the Red Mountain Conservation Bank. (Photo by Sheryll Givens/TRS) - Photo Credit: n/a
Federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher.  (Photo by Marci Koski/USFWS)
Federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher.  (Photo by Marci Koski/USFWS) - Photo Credit: n/a

By Jane Hendron, Carlsbad FWO

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife office worked with a private landowner, the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, TRS Consultants and others to sign into effect San Diego County’s largest privately initiated conservation bank in recent years.

Red Mountain Conservation Bank is a 566-acre property located in Fallbrook, California. This conservation bank will place a permanent conservation easement on the land to aid in conserving the federally threatened coastal California gnatcatcher as well as its coastal sage scrub, chaparral, native and non-native grassland, oak woodland and riparian habitats.

Property owner, Jim Chaffin had considered developing the property, but chose conserve the land through the establishment of a conservation bank. “At one point, our plan was to develop this property into residential lots,” said Chaffin, “but we realized the many benefits a conservation bank would offer the surrounding community.”

“Conservation banks provide landowners with an economic return on their property while helping conserve our native wildlife and their associated habitats,” said Jim Bartel, Field Supervisor of the Service’s Carlsbad Office.

A conservation bank is privately or publicly owned land that supports endangered, threatened or sensitive species and is managed for its natural resource values. The goal of a bank is to restore, create, enhance or preserve a wetland, stream or habitat conservation area to offset expected adverse impacts to similar nearby natural resources. In exchange for permanently protecting the land, the bank owner is allowed to sell habitat credits to developers who need to satisfy legal requirements for compensating the environmental impacts of development projects.

Credits are the units of exchange and are defined as the ecological value associated with 1-acre of a wetland or ecosystem and the linear distance of a stream functioning at the highest possible capacity within the service area of the bank.  The Red Mountain Conservation Bank has 537.66 acres of credit available for purchase.

Land in the bank will be managed using funds from an endowment created by participating landowners who deposit funds to maintain and manage the protected lands. The endowment will provide a perpetual source of funding because only its interest is tapped.

“The Red Mountain bank will preserve a prime tract of open space with high habitat value and a critical location near the entrance to Fallbrook,” said Wallace Tucker, Chairman of the Fallbrook Land Conservancy, which will hold the conservation easement on the property.

Conservation banking for federally listed species has its roots in wetland mitigation banking. In the early 1990s, the Service began working with other federal agencies to establish wetland mitigation banks.  In 1995, a final policy on wetland banking was published.  In that same year, the state of California established a policy to promote regional conservation by encouraging a second generation of mitigation banks, called conservation banks.  The objective is to conserve and manage existing habitats.

The Service began approving conservation banks for a variety of federally listed species in the early 1990s. As of January 2009, more than 90 conservation banks have been approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, most of them in California.

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Contact Info: jane hendron, , jane_hendron@fws.gov