Yolo HCP/NCCP

Benefits of the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan / Natural Community Conservation Plan

Yolo HCP/NCCP Plan Area

The Yolo Habitat Conservancy has prepared the Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (Yolo HCP/NCCP), a model conservation plan to provide Endangered Species Act permits and associated mitigation for infrastructure (e.g. roads, bridges, and levees) and development activities (e.g. agricultural facilities, housing, and commercial buildings), identified for construction over the next 50 years in Yolo County. 

 

The Yolo HCP/NCCP will coordinate mitigation to maximize benefits to 12 identified sensitive species, as well as conserve 8,000 acres of additional habitat conservation beyond mitigation. The Yolo HCP/NCCP will coordinate these conservation efforts to ensure that lands are selected consistent with a strategy based on biological criteria, including the selection of lands that provide habitat to multiple species; and are located near existing protected lands and riparian areas. The Yolo Habitat Conservancy will implement this conservation strategy in close coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), as well as the Yolo Habitat Conservancy’s Advisory Committee and other partners. This approach will improve species conservation while complying with existing state and federal laws, promoting agricultural preservation, and assisting in the completion of economic development activities associated with existing local land use plans.

Some benefits of the Yolo HCP/NCCP, over the current uncoordinated piecemeal approach by local, state and federal agencies include:

Local control

The Yolo HCP/NCCP moves compliance with state and federal endangered species laws for public and private activities from state and federal agencies to the local level. The Conservancy will administer the permits with oversight from the CDFW and the Service to streamline the existing process while still providing comprehensive regulatory coverage for currently listed species and those that may be listed in the future.

Improved and increased species conservation 

Coordinated conservation planning through the Yolo HCP/NCCP will provide significant benefits to endangered and threatened species in Yolo County, including the Swainson’s hawk, and the giant garter snake, as it replaces piecemeal mitigation and adds conservation beyond mitigation. 

Streamlined permitting process

The Yolo HCP/NCCP moves compliance with state and federal endangered species laws for public and private activities from state and federal agencies to the local level. The Conservancy will administer the permits with oversight from the CDFW and the Service to streamline the existing process while still providing comprehensive regulatory coverage for currently listed species and those that may be listed in the future.

Preserve the working agricultural environment

The Yolo HCP/NCCP recognizes that many agricultural working landscapes provide habitat. The premise of habitat and species conservation through preserved and carefully managed agriculture is foundational to the Yolo HCP/NCCP and integral to the values of Yolo County.

Agriculture and the Yolo HCP/NCCP

Landowners and farmers are the backbone of the conservation strategies at the core of the Yolo HCP/NCCP. The Yolo HCP/NCCP relies on the voluntary establishment of conservation easements on lands that provide habitat value for HCP/NCCP covered species and their habitats. The Conservancy will work with willing landowners to jointly agree to wildlife-friendly agricultural practices in a management plan that accompanies each individual easement.

What is a Habitat Conservation Plan?

A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) enables local agencies to construct projects and implement activities that affect the habitat of covered species and maintain compliance with the requirements of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). Those projects and activities must incorporate specific measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for adverse effects on endangered species.

 

An HCP extends its federally granted endangered species permit – known as take authorization – to all projects and activities it covers. Loosely defined, “take” means to injure or kill an ESA listed species or alter the habitat on which it depends. Although the ESA prohibits take of listed species, permits can authorize take by agencies, developers, and other entities engaged in otherwise lawful activities under some circumstances. The HCP process recognizes the impact of land use activities and provides a net benefit to covered species.

Without a regional HCP, local governments, private entities, or individuals evaluate projects and activities individually in consultation with a variety of federal and state regulators to mitigate for potential impacts on species. This is a lengthy process that can cost all parties considerable time and money. This approach also does less to protect wildlife because mitigation measures result in land being set aside haphazardly. This haphazard process is less ecologically viable and more difficult to manage than an HCP.

 

Regional HCPs are a relatively new tool for protecting endangered and threatened species and represent an important integration of land use planning, regional and interagency coordination, and habitat conservation. HCPs offer a more efficient process for protecting the environment and processing applications for local projects and activities that may affect endangered species and their habitats.

 

A natural community conservation plan (NCCP) is the State counterpart to the federal habitat conservation plan (HCP).  It enables compliance with the Natural Community Conservation Plan Act (NCCP Act) and take authorization at the State level. The NCCP Act is broader than federal ESA and the California Endangered Species Act (CESA): its primary objective is to conserve natural communities at the ecosystem scale while also accommodating compatible land uses. To be approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, an NCCP must ensure species conservation as well as the protection and management of natural communities in perpetuity within the area covered by permits.

 

What is a Natural Community Conservation Plan?

NCCPs are different from HCPs because the NCCP Act requires that conservation actions improve the overall condition of a species, whereas HCPs typically only require avoidance of a net adverse impact on a species. And while an HCP can be applied at a project-by-project or regional scale, an NCCP must be applied at the regional scale to provide for the conservation of the species in the plan area, protect natural communities, and provide a diversity of species habitat at the landscape-level. Thus the state requirements go “above and beyond” the federal mitigation requirements.

 
Supporters of the Yolo HCP/NCCP

A range of nonprofits, landowners, developers, businesses and individuals have signed on to support the Yolo HCP/NCCP. To add yourself or your organization to the list, fill out the form here. Click on an image to visit the website of the individual or organization. 

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