San Bernardino Environment Element enters second phase
This habitat planning effort seeks to take advantage of a new State program, the Regional Conservation Investment Strategy.
Initiated in 2012, the Environment Element is part of a multi-element San Bernardino visioning process. Endangered Habitats League has served as co-chair, along with the Building Industry Association. Stakeholders identified the twin goals of permit streamlining and comprehensive habitat planning.
Accomplishments to date include agency pre-application meetings for early assessment of biological issues, a set of guiding principles for conservation, and the start of a database and inventory. Both the County and the San Bernardino Association of Governments (via a grant from the Southern California Association of Governments) funded additional, phase 2 work in 2015.
Coincidentally, a new State law was passed in 2016 which authorizes Regional Conservation Investment Strategies (RCISs). These identify conservation priority areas and, after approval by the California Dept. of Fish and Wildlife, facilitate the creation of mitigation credits that can be used by infrastructure and other development. The creation of conservation strategies and identification of preserve locations is similar to another State program, Natural Communities Conservation Planning (NCCP), but unlike an NCCP, actual permits for “take” of species are not available through an RCIS. The idea is that it is a simpler process that can get started more quickly. Subsequent transition to an NCCP is also possible.
An RCIS is a particularly good fit for western San Bernardino County. A non-regulatory approach is most feasible, and identifying a framework for conservation would be a big step forward. An RCIS here may also assist in the proper placement and mitigation of solar energy projects.
The Environment Element has endorsed moving forward on an RCIS, as has the County Board of Supervisors. The budget and work plan have been revised to meet RCIS standards. While the State program currently caps the number of RCISs that can be adopted, we hope to lift that cap soon through additional legislation.