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Erin Munning

Update on Valley Habitat Conservation Plan

The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan, started in 2006, is a long-range conservation strategy to enhance ecological diversity and habitat function in about two-thirds of South Santa Clara County.

The plan includes the protection of 19 endangered and threatened species, including the Bay checkerspot butterfly, California red-legged frog, and California tiger salamander. Participating in the Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan are Santa Clara County, the cities of Morgan Hill, Gilroy, and San Jose, the Valley Transportation authority, Valley Water District, the California Dept. of Fish and Game, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and California State Parks.

Designed to last 50 years, the plan will eventually lead to the permanent protection of 45,000 acres of habitat and working landscapes through a combination of easements and acquisition. In addition, the plan encourages building in the right places by curbing development from the most ecologically valuable lands supporting the endangered species. Development in these sensitive areas, primarily located on ranchlands, parks and natural areas, will be charged a mitigation fee.

For more information visit www.scv-habitatplan.org.

Habitat Conservation Now

Greenbelt Alliance is part of Habitat Conservation Now. We support a plan that has the following characteristics:

  • Comprehensive:  the Plan should include the entire proposed 520,000 acres and maintain its integrity as an integrated HCP/NCCP providing coverage for both federal and state listed species.
  • Long-term:  the Plan needs to be at least 30 years in length, and preferably longer, in order to effectively respond to the long-term cumulative impacts of development over decades.  The Plan should adequately fund permanent protection, enhancement and adaptive management of habitat in response to the permanent habitat destruction that will be permitted as a result of approval.
  • Beneficial:  the Plan should conserve the most healthy, biologic spaces of reserve in contiguous formations and improve the quality of the natural environment while streamlining obligatory mitigation.
  • Integrated, innovative, and pragmatic:  the Plan should work with the partners, wildlife agencies, environmental organizations, farmers, ranchers, and other stakeholders to ensure that it taps into our local capacities for innovative problem solving.
  • Public-Private partnerships are key to success: Such as the appropriate balance between easement and fee-title acquisition of properties.
  • Scientific:  while it should go without saying, the Plan must be based on the best science, independently monitored, and adjusted appropriately over time.
  • Implementation: the Plan should be managed by an independent agency, including a citizens advisory committee with authority to effect decisions. To be a financial as well as biological success any proposed plan must pay for itself.

What’s at Stake

The partners must decide whether to allocate funds for continuing the planning process.

After eight years in development the plan is at risk as two key partners, the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County have required the plan be scaled back in light of the poor economy.

On August 18 the plan’s management team released a framework for revision that proposes a 30% reduction in overall cost, a 16% reduction in covered lands and the removal of two species from the covered list. In addition, small developments (2 acres) on the valley floor will not be covered by the plan, but parcel owners could choose to opt in to the plan in anticipation of endangered species impacts from development projects.

Greenbelt Alliance and our partners in Habitat Conservation Now are closely involved in this process to ensure that any revisions are consistent with achieving the plan’s biological goals.

What you can do

Join Habitat Conservation Now — habitatconservationnow.org

Call or email the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors and the San Jose City Council to express your support for strong, comprehensive plan.

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