A framework for conservation in San Bernardino County is taking shape.

The Environment Element, a stakeholder group convened by San Bernardino County and co-chaired by EHL, has been developing a Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS). A state program, an RCIS identifies conservation priority areas and issues mitigation credits within them. These provide a voluntary, non-regulatory conservation framework. 

The San Bernardino RCIS covers both the Valley and West Mojave regions. The former contains the washes and rivers supporting the endangered San Bernardino kangaroo rat (SBKR), Santa Ana sucker fish, and Santa Ana wooly star. The latter was added to the program to capture these important desert resources and provide mitigation opportunities for properly sited renewable energy projects. 

The RCIS identifies “focal species” that represent the area’s biodiversity, and assesses gaps in their conservation. These gaps may be on public or private land. If a landowner within a priority area applies for mitigation credits, this provides a way to realize economic value without developing the property. While the formal public comment period has not yet begun, input is still welcome.

In April 2019, the County submitted a draft RCIS to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for a “completeness review,” an important step in ultimate approval.