Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Service Actions

surveying for California tiger salamanders

Photo: USFWS

Background

Since early 2004, we have worked with a broad range of interests on the Santa Rosa Plain (Sonoma County) to help the community meet its responsibilities under the federal Endangered Species Act.

The Santa Rosa Plain is about 20 miles long and six miles wide. It has species that are federally protected and occur only on the Plain:

  • California Tiger Salamander, Sonoma population PDF
  • Burke's goldfield PDF
  • Sonoma sunshine PDF
  • Sebastopol meadowfoam PDF
  • Many-flowered navarretia PDF

Conservation Banks

Sonoma Co. wetland

Photo: USFWS

We are stepping up our effort to approve new conservation banks on the Plain. These will provide greater options for landowners to obtain credits when they cause adverse impacts to a species. Since the start of 2008 we have approved three new conservation banks: Alton North, Alton South and Hale Ranch.

Programmatic Biological Opinion

Another step we have taken to help landowners to comply with the Endangered Species Act is the Programmatic Biological Opinion. This was issued by the Service on Nov. 9, 2007. The opinion simplifies the process of consulting with the Service and complying with the Endangered Species Act by using a template in many situations. It was completed by the Service in consultation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Santa Rosa Conservation Strategy

Sonoma Co. wetland

Photo: USFWS

These steps continue the Service's work that began when the community developed the Conservation Strategy. Completed in 2005, the Strategy is a long-term program to mitigate adverse impacts on protected species in a way that the local community felt was least injurious. Beyond that, the ultimate goal is to aid in recovery of the species.

Although the Strategy was drafted in 2005, local governmental agencies have not yet been able to complete the implementing ordinances. So the Service completed its programmatic opinion, and is continuing to approve new conservation banks to assist the community.

The strategy was developed by the Santa Rosa Plain Conservation Strategy Team, made up of representatives of government agencies and interested parties. Their goals were to:

  • Develop a habitat conservation strategy that contributes to the recovery of CTS and listed plant species
  • Identify proposed areas for conservation
  • Develop an implementation framework for the conservation strategy which identifies short- and long-term actions and milestones as needed
  • Establish development process predictability

View the Conservation Strategy

Highlights of the Strategy

Conservation Areas

The Strategy identifies eight conservation areas, one CA tiger Salamander preserve system, one listed plant preserve system, and one listed plant conservation area.

Preserve Establishment

Preserves may be established within the conservation areas by acquiring land in fee title or through conservation easements. They may include wetland restoration/creation and habitat enhancement.

Translocation

Listed species may be collected and relocated to suitable habitat within the Plain. The Conservation Strategy outlines the conditions under which this can take place and when it may be required.

Habitat Improvement

Three types of habitat improvement may occur as a part of the Conservation Strategy: Wetland creation, wetland restoration, and enhancement of wetland and upland habitat. Criteria for lands proposed for habitat improvement are detailed in the Conservation Strategy.

Preserve Management

Preserve management plans will be required. They must detail activities that are necessary to maintain and enhance the wildlife, plant communities and wetland habitats, including management of water, vegetation and predators.

Adaptive Management

An Adaptive Management Team will ensure that preserve management is occurring consistent with the Conservation Strategy.

Mitigation

The goal of mitigation is to reduce, or compensate for, the negative impact an action may have on a listed species or sensitive habitat. The Conservation Strategy addresses the mitigation requirements for CTS, the listed plant species and seasonal wetlands, including vernal pools. See Interim Mitigation Guidelines (429 KB PDF)

Implementation

In January 2005, a group referred to as the Implementation Committee was formed to develop a plan to implement the Conservation Strategy. This group is currently comprised of representatives of local jurisdictions, the Fish and Wildlife Service, the California Department of Fish and Game, and the agricultural, environmental and private landowner communities. The Implementation Committee is preparing a plan that, when adopted by the various agencies, will provide the basis for implementation of the Conservation Strategy.

Potential Funding

There are a variety of potential funding sources to assist in implementation of the Conservation Strategy. Direct mitigation is the most likely and certain source. Other potential sources include land acquisition grants, Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) land acquisition grants, private foundation grants, State revolving funds, Sonoma County Agriculture and Open Space Protection District funds, Legislative and Congressional appropriations, and private stewardship programs.