California Native Plant Society

Conservation Program

Regional Conservation Planning

Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs) and Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are rapidly becoming the preferred regulatory replacement for project-by-project environmental review and permitting. The programs are essentially streamlined endangered species take permitting processes, but they do allow for a landscape-scale, ecosystem perspective to conservation planning. Unfortunately, the permits are very long term (often >50 years) and grant regulatory assurances to the permittees which preclude additional fees or mitigation once the plan is approved. 

While the permittees and developers get assurances that they will not have to contribute more money or mitigation once the plan has been approved, the only assurances available to the resources and the environmental community is the use of the best available science. To that extent, it is imperative that scientists and environmental advocates become involved in the planning process in order to advocate for the environmental resources and the best available science. 

New Resources

Regional Conservation Planning in California: A Guide -- A guide by the Institute of Ecological Health gives an excellent overview of regional conservation planning. Covers all the pertinent laws and concepts in an easy to read format. (PDF, 441k)

CNPS Resources

CNPS staff and volunteer conservation advocates are actively involved in regional conservation planning throughout California. The following resources are being developed to facilitate sharing of planning strategies and scientific information.

CNPS Conservation Forum -- A web-based message board for discussion of conservation related issues. This is a good place to post general conservation related questions.

The Habitat Conservation Plan - Natural Community Conservation Program Manual -- David Chipping, CNPS, Public Release Edition 2.0, Fall 1999. Note that this manual was prepared before SB 107 and therefore contains outdated information on the NCCP Act and process. A revised manual is in preparation.

NCCP (State) Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines

Natural Community Conservation Plans are authorized under State of California Fish and Game Code. During the 2001-2002 legislative term, a new law was passed which substantially changed the NCCP Act. Plans under development may fall under either the old or the new NCCP Act depending upon when the planning agreement was signed. 

California Fish and Game Code 2800-2840 -- This NCCP Act applies to projects for which planning agreements were approved prior to January 1, 2001. (PDF)

In addition to the statutes above, the Department of Fish and Game has produces several guidance documents pertinent to the NCCP planning process. Since these were mostly prepared prior to the passage of SB 107, we expect to see some changes in the near future. 

NCCP General Process Guidelines -- Department of Fish and Game, January 1998. Except as provided in Fish and Game Code section 2830, these guidelines are superceded by the NCCP Act of 2002 (Fish & Game Code,  Section 2800 et seq.).

Improving Public Outreach and Education for Natural Community Conservation Planning -- Department of Fish and Game, Fall 2000

Guidance for the NCCP Independent Science Advisory Process -- Department of Fish and Game, August 2002

Roles & Responsibilities of Consultants in Developing NCCP/HCPs -- Department of Fish and Game, 2002

Natural Communities Conservation Planning -- Department of Fish and Game web site

Draft Research Guidance to Address the Needs of Land Managers -- Department of Fish and Game, March 1997

HCP (Federal) Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines

Habitat Conservation Plans are required under the Federal Endangered Species Act as part of the Section 10(a) Incidental Take Permit provision. The HCP standards are to fully mitigate for impacts and must not jeopardize the continued existence of listed species.

Endangered Species Habitat Conservation Planning -- A U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website containing a good overview of the Federal HCP permitting process. 

Habitat Conservation Planning Handbook -- This is a joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service handbook. Some material, such as the complete list of endangered plants and animals, is not available in this online version.

Reports on Regional Conservation Planning Projects

The following reports were instrumental in helping to formulate needs for a new NCCP Act which culminated in the passage of  SB 107 in January 2002.

Pollak, D. 2001a. Natural Community Conservation Planning (NCCP) - The origins of an Ambitious Experiment to Protect Ecosystems. Part 1 of a series. California Research Bureau, California State Library, Sacramento. 57 pp.

Pollak, D. 2001b. The Future of Habitat Conservation? - The NCCP Experience in Southern California. Part 2 of a series. California Research Bureau, California State Library, Sacramento. 99 pp.

Jasny, M. 1997. Leap of Faith, Southern California's Experiment in Natural Community Conservation Planning. Natural Resources Defense Council. 

Rolfe, A. 2001. Understanding the Political Realities of Regional Conservation Planning. Fremontia (29)3-4:13-18.

Witham, C.W. 2001. The Future of Regional Conservation Planning. Fremontia 29(3-4):19-26.

Numerous reports are available on the HCP process and the scientific shortfalls of plans prepared to date. 

NCEAS. 1998. Using Science in Habitat Conservation Plans. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis and American Institute of Biological Sciences. 

Current Planning Projects

Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan -- The draft CVMSHCP covers 1,136,261 acres, a diverse mixture of desert and mountain habitats. This plan is subject to the § 2830(d) grandfather clause in SB 107. The Science Advisors report was released in April 2001.

Eastern Contra Costa County -- East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan Association. This plan will fall under the provisions of SB 107.

Mendocino Redwood Company NCCP/HCP -- This will be the first single landowner, timber-related NCCP. The planning agreement is not available on the DFG or MRC websites. The Science Advisors Report was issued August 2003.

Eastern Merced County -- The County of Merced and the University of California are working together to develop an NCCP plan that will address conservation while accommodating a new UC campus. This plan is subject to the § 2830(e) grandfather clause in SB 107. The Science Advisors report was released in November 2002. A biological survey data report was also recently released.

Orange County -- There are three subregional plans for this area. The central-coastal plan has been approved. The others are in the planning phase. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Game NCCP Status page for additional information on the Orange County NCCPs. 

San Diego County -- There are numerous plans and subplans in this area. Some are approved and others are still in draft format. Please refer to the Department of Fish and Game NCCP Status page for additional information on the San Diego County NCCPs.

Santa Clara County Multi-Species/Multi-Agency HCP/NCCP:

Shasta County -- An NCCP/HCP is currently being considered for the greater Redding Area. No website is available.

Additional On-line Resources



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