Spanish Delegation Visits SFWO
Conservation Banking: Ideas for Endangered Species Cross the Pond
In early November, 2011, five biologists working with the Government of Spain (both regional and national level) visited the Sacramento Fish and Wildlife Office (SFWO) to learn about conservation banking. Just as a group of Japanese researchers had come a few weeks before, the Spanish delegation visited because the SFWO is at the forefront of conservation banking in the U.S. The visit was educational for everyone. Did you know that the endangered species law in Spain is stricter than ours?
Species protection is taken very seriously in Spain because of some very emblematic endangered species such as the Iberian lynx, the imperial eagle, and the brown bear. Most of the remaining habitat for these species is on private property. The Spanish law requires mitigation for impacts to endangered species and a critical habitat designation is a form of protection. If private property is designated as critical habitat, then it is protected from legal development.
Spain’s endangered species law can seem a little heavy handed to private landowners, especially when compared to our own. However, it contains a provision for conservation banking as a way to provide land owners with an incentive to protect or restore habitat for endangered species on their property. But the law does not give any guidance on how to implement a conservation banking program, so they came to visit us in the SFWO.
While they were here, biologists discussed the finer details of conservation banking and spent afternoons in the field. The group visited River Ranch, a very diverse business developed by Wildlands Inc. This property is a working farm but has set aside separate land parcels as conservation banks for wetlands, salmonids, and the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. These separate endeavors are incorporated within a working landscape where organic tree nuts and various row crops are farmed.
The group also visited Westervelt Ecological Services' Van Vleck Ranch Mitigation Bank that provides designated conservation areas for vernal pool fairy shrimp, vernal pool tadpole shrimp, and the Swainson's hawk. The Van Vleck bank is also a national training model for U.S. government employees learning about wetland banking. Before leaving, the group also visited the Cosumnes River Preserve to learn about other Fish and Wildlife Service incentive programs for landowners involved with the Partners Program.
Upon their return to Spain, the biologists have been tasked with drafting a national law for conservation banking. Inspired by our week together here at SFWO, we look forward to hearing how that develops!
Photographs and Story by Valerie Layne, Conservation Banking, Sacramento Field Office