Conservation and agriculture coexist with new plan

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Land development in the state endangers the habitat and continued existence of native species in the area, leading to policy efforts to protect them. However, preservation has historically worked against the preservation of another open land use at the heart of Yolo County—agriculture.

After a long, choppy journey across the uncertain waters of local, state and federal government beginning in 1993, the Yolo Habitat Conservancy finally has a document ready to protect 12 endangered species in the county, while preserving habitat on working agricultural land, allowing agriculture and wildlife to succeed in partnership.

City council unanimously approved The Yolo Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan at the regular meeting of May 15. The Plan needs to be approved by Winters, Davis, Woodland and West Sacramento, UC Davis and at the county level before moving on to state and federal approval.

“The plan will be protecting 33,000 acres, the majority of that will be on working agricultural land,” said Conservancy executive director Petrea Marchand.

Marchand says the conservancy will work closely with the farm bureau in implementing the plan.

Parties who need to go through the process of environmental impact mitigation will only have to go through the conservancy.

“There’s no interaction with state and federal government, the Conservancy is doing that on your behalf,” said Marchand.

Under the new plan, the process of paying impact fees will be streamlined, so that all 12 species will be covered. Currently, studies are conducted to determine which species need be addressed on each parcel, and the landowner pays accordingly. Mayor Wade Cowan expressed concern that the new plan might cause more financial strain for those who would have only had to pay fees for one or two of the species.

“There are some cases where the new fee could be higher, but you no longer need to employ some consultants, you just pay one fee and you’re done, you can’t measure the value of time-saving,” said Marchand.

“We suspect in most cases there will be cost savings,” she said.

The 12 species of plants and animals covered by the plan are: palmate-bracted bird’s beak, valley elderberry longhorn beetle, California tiger salamander, western pond turtle, giant garter snake, Swainson’s hawk, white-tailed kite, western yellow-billed cuckoo, western burrowing owl, Least Bell’s vireo, bank swallow and tricolored blackbird.

According to Marchand, who has served as executive director for the past six years, the plan is not expected to receive push back from higher-level government.

“Now that it’s complete they’re supportive of it, we know that our support goes up to the (federal) level,” said Marchand.

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