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California’s Natural Community Conservation Planning Act

Protects California’s natural diversity while allowing for reasonable use of natural resources for economic development

By Chris Micheli, August 26, 2022 6:36 am

California has a number of formal acts in statute. Fish and Game Code Division 3, Chapter 10 provides the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act, which is contained in Section 2800 to 2835. Chapter 10 was added in 2002 by Chapter 4. Section 2800 names the Act.

Section 2801 provides ten legislative findings and declarations, including that there is a need for broad-based planning to provide for effective protection and conservation of the state’s wildlife heritage while continuing to allow appropriate development and growth. Natural community conservation planning is an effective tool in protecting California’s natural diversity while reducing conflicts between protection of the state’s wildlife heritage and reasonable use of natural resources for economic development.

Section 2802 provides an additional legislative finding and declaration that it is the policy of the state to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance natural communities. It is the intent of the Legislature to acquire a fee or less than fee interest in lands consistent with approved natural community conservation plans and to provide assistance with the implementation of those plans.

Section 2805 provides definitions for the following terms: “adaptive management”; “candidate species”; “changed circumstances”; “conserve, conserving, and conservation”; “covered species”; “department assurance”; “monitoring program”; “natural community conservation plan or plan”; “person”; “plan participant”; “unforeseen circumstances”; “wildlife”; and, “wildlife agencies.”

Section 2809 provides that any person, or any local, state, or federal agency, independently, or in cooperation with other persons, may undertake natural community conservation planning.

Section 2810 authorizes the department to enter into an agreement with any person or public entity for the purpose of preparing a natural community conservation plan, in cooperation with a local agency that has land use permit authority over the activities proposed to be addressed in the plan. The agreement must meet all nine of the specified conditions.

Section 2815 requires the department to establish, in cooperation with the parties to the planning agreement, a process for public participation throughout plan development and review to ensure that interested persons, including landowners, have an adequate opportunity to provide input to lead agencies, state and federal wildlife agencies, and others involved in preparing the plan.

Section 2820 requires the department to approve a natural community conservation plan for implementation after making the ten specified findings, based upon substantial evidence in the record. In addition, a natural community conservation plan approved pursuant to this section must include an implementation agreement that contains all nine specified provisions.

If a plan participant does not maintain the proportionality between take and conservation measures specified in the implementation agreement and does not either cure the default within 45 days or enter into an agreement with the department within 45 days to expeditiously cure the default, the department is required to suspend or revoke the permit, in whole or in part.

Any data and reports associated with the monitoring program required by this section must be available for public review. The entity managing the plan must also conduct public workshops on an annual basis to provide information and evaluate progress toward attaining the conservation objectives of the plan.

The department may provide assurances for plan participants commensurate with long-term conservation assurances and associated implementation measures pursuant to the approved plan.

Section 2821 requires the department, concurrent with the approval by the department of a final natural community conservation plan, to establish a list of specified that are authorized for take and to find the mitigation measures specified in the plan and imposed by the plan participants are consistent with existing law.

Section 2822 allows the department to seek injunctive relief against any plan participant, person, or entity to enforce this chapter. Section 2823 requires the department to suspend or revoke any permit, in whole or in part, issued for the take of a species if the continued take of the species would result in jeopardizing the continued existence of the species.

Section 2825 allows the department to adopt regulations for the development and implementation of natural community conservation plans consistent with this chapter. Section 2826 provides that nothing in this chapter exempts a project proposed in a natural community conservation planning area from specified provisions of existing law.

Section 2827 requires, to the extent practicable, implementation of natural community conservation plans to use the services of either the California Conservation Corps or local community conservation corps. Section 2828 provides that nothing in this chapter prohibits a local government from exercising any power or authority granted to it pursuant to state law to acquire land or water to implement a plan.

Section 2829 specifies that the department may be compensated for the actual costs incurred in participating in the preparation and implementation of natural community conservation plans. These costs may include consultation with other parties to agreements, providing and compiling wildlife and wildlife habitat data, reviewing and approving the final plan, monitoring implementation of the plan, and other activities necessary to the preparation and implementation of a plan.

Section 2830 provides that nothing in this chapter prohibits the taking or the incidental take of any identified species if the taking is authorized by the department pursuant to any of the specified circumstances.

Section 2831 provides that lands designated as of January 1, 2013 as open-space lands in a document entitled “Declaration of the Dedication of Land” approved by a resolution of the San Diego City Council in the same manner in which the city council processes approval of dedicated open space, reserving to the city council the authority to grant easements for utility purposes in, under, and across dedicated property, if those easements and facilities to be located thereon do not significantly interfere with the park and recreational use of the property.

Section 2835 specifies that, at the time of plan approval, the department may authorize by permit the taking of any covered species, including species designated as fully protected species, whose conservation and management is provided for in a natural community conservation plan approved by the department.

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