UPDATE: On August 27, the final Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan was released to the six local partners (Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Jose, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara VTA, Santa Clara Valley Water District).
The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan is a groundbreaking effort to create a unified conservation program for preserving critical habitat in Santa Clara County. It currently includes the protection of 18 endangered and threatened species and will eventually lead to the permanent protection of 46,000 acres of habitat and working landscapes through a combination of easements and acquisition.
As part of the overall Habitat Plan, the Santa Clara County Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan would change the current process of project-by-project permitting for development of wildlife habitat. Rather than separately permitting individual projects, the plan evaluates natural-resource impacts and mitigation requirements comprehensively and more efficiently by directing fees to protect large contiguous areas where protected species are most likely to thrive and survive.
To further streamline the development process, the implementing agency is also working fervently to develop a Regional General Permit with the Army Corps of Engineers for minor impacts to waters of the U.S.
In general, habitat conservation plans take a more concerted approach toward planning for development and conservation, give more certainty to developers and public projects such as bridges and roads, and provide funding for wildlife conservation.
The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan’s lengthy process dates back to 2006 and has been going through revision processes since November 2011, when local partners voted to authorize the preparation of a final plan. In the last week of August, the final Habitat Plan and final EIR/EIS was released to the six local partners (City of Gilroy, City of Morgan Hill, City of San Jose, Santa Clara County, Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District) for adoption in October or November.
Greenbelt Alliance has joined with a coalition of environmental groups to form Habitat Conservation Now in formal support of the Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan. Since 2011, we have been working hard to demonstrate widespread support for the plan. We are also working closely with the regulatory agencies to ensure that modifications to the plan would not put the biological goals at risk.
The newly proposed plan serves the community well and needs your public support these next few months. Get involved by visiting our website for action alerts, templates for public comments and letters, and upcoming public meetings. “Like” us on Facebook to find up to the minute news on the plan’s status.