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Stephens' Kangaroo Rat Habitat Conservation Plan

 

Appendix D

The Habitat Transaction Method: A Market-Based Alternative for HCP Implementation

  1. A. Introduction
    1. 1. Principles Followed
    2. 2. Summary of the HTM Alternative
  2. B. Biological Criteria
    1. 1. Habitat Value
    2. 2. Conservation Value
    3. 3. Tally of Conservation Units
    4. 4. Conservation Ratio
  3. C. Habitat Transactions
    1. 1. Credits Given for Habitat Preservation
    2. 2. Credits Required for Habitat Loss
    3. 3. Trading of Conservation Credits
    4. 4. Variations on the General Approach
  4. D. Reserve Management Program
    1. 1. Core Reserve Management Plan
    2. 2. Conservation Pund
    3. 3. Habitat Management Activities
    4. 4. Direct RCHCA Habitat Acquisitions
  5. E. Monitoring Program
    1. 1. Annual Adjustments to the Conservation Ratio
    2. 2. Periodic Reviews
    3. 3. Emergency Reviews
  6. F. Biological Surveys
    1. 1. Types of Biological Surveys
    2. 2. Survey Requirements and Fees
    3. 3. Survey Process
    4. 4. Survey Guidelines
    5. 5. Qualification of Survey Biologists
  7. G. Administration
    1. 1. Resource Agency Responsibilities
    2. 2. RCHCA Responsibilities
    3. 3. Member Agency Responsibilities
    4. 4. RMCC.Responsibilities
    5. 5. Registrar Responsibilities
    6. 6. Enforcement Against Illegal Take
    7. 7. Summary of Program Funding
  8. H. Multi-Species Planning
    1. 1. Meeting ESA Requirements
  9. I. Summary of Conservation Assurances
    1. 2. Meeting of Federal ESA Requirements
    2. 3. Meeting of State ESA Requirements
  10. J. Conclusion
  11. Attachment 1

A. Introduction

Our present economic and regulatory systems do a tragically poor job of accounting for the value of habitat for rare andendangered species. Landowners typically find that the presence of "valuable" habitat revalues their property by virtue of the federal and state endangered species acts (ESAs) and other resource protection laws. The perverse incentive is created for landowners to destroy-by legal means or otherwise the valuable habitat whose presence destroys the economic value of their land. Riverside County can reverse this troubling result by adopting conservation strategies that align the economic interests of landowners with society's interest in protecting precious natural resources.

With such a view in mind, the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency (RCHCA) commissioned the development of a "market-based" alternative for implementing the Habitat Conservation Plan for the Stephens' Kangaroo Rat in Western Riverside County (the HCP) or a future multiple-species habitat conservation plan (multi-species HCP). This appendix presents the initial results of that commission. It shows how positive economic incentives can be used as the primary means of attaining habitat protection goals and that such goals need not be achieved at the expense of the local economy. The approach presented here is based upon a concept known as the "Habitat Transaction Method"1 and shall be referred to as the "HTM alternative." Although the HTM alternative is described here in terms of the Stephens' kangaroo rat (SKR), its more appropriate application may be for a future multi-species HCP that covers the SKR atong with other species and habitat types. Section G below discusses how this HTM alternative could be adapted to a multi-species HCP.

1. Principles Followed

The HTM alternative adheres to the following basic principles:

  1. 1. Both Preservation and Loss of Habitat are Evaluated Based on Conservation Value. All actions that preserve or destroy habitat are evaluated in terms of the "conservation value" preserved or lost. Conservation value takes into account not only the quantity and habitat quality of land, but also reserve design considerations such as how a parcel contributes to the overall contiguity and shape of a potential reserve system.
  2. 2. Preservation of a Quantified Amount of Conservation Value is Assured. The amount of conservation value that is believed necessary to meet the conservation objectives of the HCP is determined at the outset, and the conservation value that exists within the plan area is never allowed to drop below that level.
  3. 3. Reserves are Built from Existing Cores. The core areas preserved under the Short-Term Stephens' kangaroo rat habitat conservation plan (Short-Term HCP) and through other efforts act as catalysts for the building of a larger preserve network, yet the addition of new core areas is not precluded.
  4. 4. Mitigation Always Occurs Before Take. The mitigation required for any take of habitat shall always occur before the take.
  5. 5. Sufficient Funding for Acquisitions is Assured. The funding necessary to acquire a reserve system with sufficient conservation value is assured because the compensation for acquisitions is in the form of credits, which are automatically generated in proportion to the conservation value of land dedicated to the reserve system.
  6. 6. Landowners are Given Certain and Efficient Means to Resolve Endangered Species issues. Each landowner in the credit-trading area is given a certain and efficient means to resolve SKR issues, with the option of either dedicating land to preservation and receiving compensation (in the form of credits) or developing land after providing sufficient mitigation (in the form of credits). Owners of land outside of the credit-trading area simply pay a conservation fee prior to developing.
  7. 7. Landowners are Given Positive incentives to Conserve. The higher the conservation value of a parcel, the more compensation the landowner will receive by preserving it. In this way, landowners have positive incentives to protect and preserve the most important habitat.
  8. 8. Local Land Use Planning Is Not impaired. The HTM alternative does nothing to impair or preclude local land use planning. Local planning can continue to be used to determine acceptable uses on all lands within the plan area.
  9. 9. "Fall-Safes" are Provided to Assure a Satisfactory Result. In addition to the assurance that a certain amount of conservation value will necessarily be preserved, additional fail-safes are provided in the forms of an adaptive management program and a monitoring program that will allow for "mid-course adjustments" to the HCP.

1See Todd G. Olson, Dennis D. Murphy, and Robert D. Thomton, "The Habitat Transaction Method: A Proposal for Creating Tradable Credits in Endangered Species Habitat," in Building Economic Incentives into the Endangered Species Act, ed. Hank Fischer and Wendy E. Hudson (Wash. D.C.: Defenders of Wildlife, 1993), 27-36. D-?

2. Summary of the HTM Alternative

Under the HTM alternative, a process is established for measuring the initial conservation value for the SKR of all of the land in the plan area, expressed in terms of standardized conservation units. Any landowner who dedicates land within the plan area to the SKR reserve system or takes other specified conservation actions receives credits based on the conservation value added to the reserve system by the dedication. Lands that have been preserved within the plan area will be referred to collectively as the "preserve network." Any landowner proposing a project wrthin the plan area that would destroy SKR habitat would be required to first offer a number of credits based on the loss of conservation value that results from the development. The number of credits that would be required of such a landowner would be equal to the conservation value to be lost by the development multiplied by a pre-established "conservation ratio." Landowners who receive credits for conservation actions would be free to either use the credits to develop SKR habitat elsewhere within the plan area or sell the credits to any other landowner who needs credits to compensate for habitat impacts.

A typical set of conservation credit transactions is illustrated below. Owner A dedicates land to the SKR reserve system and receives conservation credits in return from the RCHCA. Owner A sells the credits to Owner B for cash. Owner B then uses the credits by presenting them to the RCHCA, along with a registration fee, and in return receives a permit to take (eliminate) a certain number of conservation units worth of habitat (based on the number of credits presented).

Exhibit A

The following example further illustrates the HTM alternative. In this example, the conservation ratio is 1:1. Ms. Clark owns a 30 acre parcel of land. The conservation value of preserving her land would be 2.0 conservation units per acre, or 60 conservation units. Mr. Romero owns a 100 acre parcel of land he would like to develop. His proposed development would result in the toss of 0.6 conservation units per acre, or 60 conservation units worth of conservation value. Ms. Clark grants her land to the RCHCA in exchange for 60 credits and advertises the credits for sale for $3,000 per credit (which equates to $6,000 per acre of land she granted to the RCHCA). Mr. Romero sees Ms. Clark's ad and buys her credits for a total of $180,000 (or $1,800 per acre of his project) plus the registration fee. By turning those 80 credits over to the RCHCA, he receives a permit to take 60 conservation units worth of habitat (based on the 1:1 conservation ratio), exactly what he needs to go forward with his project.

Exhibit B

Because higher conservation value land was used to compensate for lower conservation value land, Ms. Claris was able to realize $6,000 per acre in compensation, but the mitigation cost to Mr. Romero was only $1,800 per acre plus the registration fee. If Ms. Clark wanted to develop her land, her mitigation cost per acre would be much higher than Mr. Romero's because of the high conservation value of her land.

Lands within the plan area but with no SKR habitat value will be designated as "credit-exempt areas." Projects within credit-exempt areas will not be required to offer credits under the HCP, but will be required to pay. a $1,950 conservation fee (adjusted annually for inflation). The registration fee will be $250 per conservation credit, about $50 per credit of which will be used to cover the cost of registering the conservation credit. The balance of the registration fee and all of the conservation fees will be placed in a conservation fund, which wilt cover the cost of reserve management and overall program administration. Habitat management will be implemented by a Reserve Managers Coordinating Committee (RMCC), which will be established as described in the main text of this Volume 1.

The balance of this appendix describes the HTM alternative in more detail, including the biological criteria for the plan (Section B), the basic process of creating, spending, and trading credits (Section C), the reserve management program (Section D), the monitoring program (Section E), the role of biological surveys (Section F), plan administration (Section G), how the HTM alternative can be adapted for application to a multi-species HCP (Section H), how the HTM alternative could be used to satisfy the requirements of the ESAs (Section I), and a conclusion (Section J).

B. Biological Criteria

The HTM alternative is driven by biological criteria which are established as part of the HCP in coordination with the resource agencies (the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Pish and Game (CDPG)) and modified over time, as necessary, through a monitoring program (see Section D below). Although the HTM alternative gives landowners flexibility in resolving SKR issues with their property, it is the biological criteria that govern what landowners may do. The definition of conservation value determines how trade-offs between development and preservation are evaluated, and the conservation ratio determines the total amount of conservation value that must be preserved. This section discusses how these key biological criteria are established and applied.

1. Habitat Value

Any given parcel within the plan area can be evaluated in terms of its inherent habitat value. That is done by assigning habitat value points to the parcel based upon the presence and density of active SKR burrows. If no active burrows are present, some habitat value is still assigned if there are historical records of SKR habitat on the site or if there is other natural habitat on the site that is suitable for SKR dispersal. The specific criteria for assigning points are provided in Attachment 1. Applying this point system will yield a habitat value of between 0 and 2 points per acre for any given parcel of land within the plan area.

2. Conservation Value

Conservation value differs from habitat value in that conservation value takes into account not only the inherent habitat value of each parcel, but also how parcels relate to each other to support the long-term survival of the SKR. The plan area and the preserve network each have a conservation value based on their total inherent habitat value, the contiguity (or connectivity) of the patches of habitat within the area (the more connected the better), and the shape of the patches of habitat within the area (the rounder the better).

Conservation value, then, applies to an entire configuration of habitat at a given point in time, such as the current habitat contained in either the plan area or the preserve network. A certain amount of conservation value exists in the plan area at the beginning of the HCP (the initial conservation value). The objective of the HCP using the HTM alternative is to create a preserve network over time that has a conservation value equal to or greater than a certain "target conservation value" which is calculated to be sufficient to meet the conservation objectives of providing for the survival and recovery of the SKR. The HTM alternative measures losses of conservation value to the plan area and additions of conservation value to the preserve network.

The remainder of this subsection (2) summarizes how the habitat value of the plan area or preserve network is adjusted for contiguity and shape to arrive at the conservation value of the area in terms of "conservation units" (abb reviated, "c.u."). Attachment 1 provides a more detailed explanation of these adjustments.

a. Contiguity Adjustment

To translate habitat value into conservation value, the first step is to adjust inherent habitat value for contiguity. The contiguity adjustment is based on how much the patches of habitat are clumped into contiguous areas, as shown below:

Exhibit C

When evaluating the conservation value of the plan area, all habitat within the plan area is included to define the habitat patches. When evaluating the conservation value of the preserve network, only habitat within the preserve network is included for purposes of defining patches (i.e., habitat outside of the preserve network is treated as though it were not habitat).

b. Shape Adjustment

Finally, the contiguity-adjusted habitat value is adjusted based on the overall shape of the patches of habitat. For purposes of this adjustment, the ideal shape is a single circle. All else being equal, a circle has the smallest perimeter to police and fence for its area, and a circle maximizes the opportunity for interaction among species within its perimeter. As shown below, the shape values of patches and groups of patches are adjusted downward as they become less round.

Exhibit D

Once again, when evaluating the conservation value of the plan area, all habitat within the plan area is included for purposes of the shape adjustment. When evaluating the conservation value of the preserve network, only habitat within the preserve network is included.

When the habitat value of the plan area or preserve network has been adjusted lor contiguity and shape, the resulting value is its conservation value, expressed in terms of conservation units. Attachment 1 provides the actual formulas and exact procedures for making these adjustments.

3. Tally of Conservation Units

An estimate of the initial conservation value of the plan area is needed as a basis for determining the conservation ratio and for measuring losses of conservation value to the plan area. In order to estimate the initial conservation value, an estimate must be made of the total habitat value contained within the plan area. The RCHCA shall use a map of the plan area overlaid with 100hectare grid cells for purposes of this estimate. Then, using existing mapping of presence and absence of SKR, the RCHCA shall assign estimated habitat value points to each cell. A value of zero will be assigned only to (1) cells that are known by site visits or aerial photography to have no SKR habrtat value and that are not mapped historically as having SKR habitat value (creditexempt areas) and (2) cells that would qualify as being under cultivation based upon the definition set forth in Section C(4)(d) betow (cultivated areas). A computer will be used to adjust each cell's habitat value for contiguity and shape. The computer will then be used to tally the initial conservation value contained within the plan area. The map developed for this purpose will be referred to as the "base map," and shall be updated as new biological information becomes available (see Section E below). The base map will show the estimated or surveyed habitat values of all lands in the plan area, along with the plan area boundary, the preserve network boundaries, the creditexempt areas boundaries, the cultivated areas boundaries, and the already-developed areas.

4. Conservation Ratio

The remaining critical biological factor to be established is the Conservation Ratio. The conservation ratio is the number of conservation units that must be preserved for each conservation unit lost to development. This ratio determines both the mitigation cost to landowners and the total amount of conservation value that will be preserved in the long run. For example, if the initial conservation value is 200,000 conservation units, and the conservation ratio is 1:1, then landowners will be required to provide one conservation credit (representing one conservation unit of preservation) for each conservation unit to be developed, and a total of 100,000 conservation units will be preserved in the long run. If instead the conservation ratio is 2:1, then landowners will be required to provide two conservation credits for each conservation unit to be developed, and a total of 133,333 conservation units will be presented in the long run.

The resource agencies and RCHCA staff will use a computer model to evaluate the types of reserve configurations that could result from various conservation ratios. They will then recommend a conservation ratio to the RCHCA Board, along with any recommended changes to the formulas for adjusting habitat values tor contiguity and shape. The HTM alternative can be implemented only if the RCHCA Board approves biological criteria that are also acceptable to the resource agencies.

C. Habitat Transactions

The essence of the HTM alternative is to permit the take of conservation value from the plan area only if sufficient conservation value is first contributed to the preserve network. The amount of conservation value that must be contributed to the preserve network is equal to the conservation value to be taken from the plan area multiplied by the conservation ratio. This section describes the actions, or "habitat transactions" that landowners may take in accordance with this principle.

1. Credits Given for Habitat Preservation

Any owner of land within the plan area may voluntarily grant land to the RCHCA to become part of the SKR reserve system and receive conservation credits in return. The number of conservation credits that a landowner will receive is equal to the number of conservation units added to the preserve network by the grant of land. The calculation of added value would take into account the added habitat value of the new land, any increase in contiguity caused by the addition, and the net change in the shape value of the preserve network caused by the addition. The procedure for calculating increases in habitat value to the preserve network is described in Attachment 1.

The concept of measuring increases in conservation value lo the preserve network as a whole is very important under the credit trading approach, it is this concept that provides landowners with strong incentives to preserve land that not only has high inherent habitat value, but which also adds to the preserve network in a way that is truly beneficial from a conservation standpoint. The following observations illustrate this fact:

1. The preservation of a small parcel () that is not connected to other lands that are part of the preserve network will receive minimal credits because the contiguity adjustment will discount its value dramatically.

Exhibit E

2. The preservation of a small parcel that is connected to a large patch of habitat within the preserve network will receive substantial credits because the contiguity value of the entire patch increases with the addition of the small parcel.

Exhibit F

3. The preservation of a parcel that fills in a hole or a notch in a patch in a preserve will receive extra credits because of an increase in the shape value (roundness) of the patch.

Exhibit G

4. The preservation of a parcel that creates a connection between two patches of habitat that are in the preserve network will tend to receive a large number of extra credits because the contiguity value of both of the formerly disconnected patches will increase significantly.

Exhibit H

5. The preservation of a parcel that widens a habitat corridor will receive extra credits because of an increase in the shape value of the affected patch.

Exhibit I

2. Credits Required for Habitat Loss

Any owner of land within the plan area may engage in an activity which reduces conservation value only by offering sufficient conservation credits to mitigate the take. The number of conservation credits that a landowner must offer is equal to the toss in conservation value to the plan area that would be caused by the activity, multiplied by the conservation ratio. The calculation of lost value takes into account the loss in habitat value resulting from the activity, any decrease in contiguity caused by the activity, and the net change in the shape value of the plan area caused by the habitat loss. If the loss in value is 100 conservation units, and the conservation ratio is 1:1, then the number of credits required would be 100 (100 c.u.x 1). if the conservation ratio is 2:1, then the number of credits required would be 200 (100 c.u. x 2). The more detailed procedure for calculating decreases in habitat value to the plan area is described in Attachment 1.

Complementing the concept of rewarding increases in conservation value to the preserve network as a whole is the concept of penalizing decreases in conservation value to the plan area as a whole. The following observations illustrate this fact:

1. The development of a small parcel () that is not connected to other SKR habitat within the plan area will cost minimal credits because the contiguity adjustment will discount its value dramatically.

Exhibit J

2. The development of a parcel that creates a hole or a notch in a patch of SKR habitat will cost additional credits because of a decrease in the shape value (roundness) of the patch.

Exhibit K

3. The development of a parcel that breaks a connection between two patches of SKR habitat will tend to cost a large number of credits because the contiguity value of both of the formerly connected patches will decrease significantly.

Exhibit L

It is important to note that the conservation value that would be added to the preserve network by preserving a parcel is not equal to the conservation value that would be lost to the plan area by developing the same parcel. In the illustration below, preserved land is indicated by the pattern, and other SKR habitat is indicated by the pattern.

Exhibit M

If Parcel A is preserved at this time, it would generate relatively few credits because it is not connected to the existing preserve network. This result is appropriate because there is no guarantee at this time that Parcel A wilt ever be connected to the preserve network. The owner of Parcel A could increase the preservation value of the parcel either by waiting until other parcels are preserved which connect Parcel A to the preserve network or by negotiating with other landowners to have them preserve their land to make the connection to the preserve network.

If Parcel A were to be developed. Areas 1 and 2 (including the preserved portions) would be disconnected from Area 3. The result would be two separate patches of SKR habitat instead of one large one, and each of the two patches would have a smaller contiguity factor than the one large one did. As a result, the loss in conservation value to the plan area would be substantial, and the number of conservation credits required to develop Parcel A would be relatively large. On the other hand, the cost of developing Parcel A would decrease significantly if a large part of Area 3 were developed first.

3. Trading of Conservation Credits

Landowners who need conservation credits can obtain them either by preserving land and obtaining credits from the RCHCA, or by purchasing credits from another party. Conversely, landowners who preserve land and obtains credits may either use them to mitigate their own take of conservation value or sell them to any other party. The tradability of credits is a key to the efficiency and flexibility of the HTM alternative. For example:

  1. 1. An owner of a small parcel with high habitat value could preserve the parcel, receive credits, and sell them to a larger landowner who wishes to develop.
  2. 2. A larger landowner wishing to develop could design the project so that a portion of the land could be preserved to generate credits. If those credits fell short of what was needed to offset take elsewhere in the development, the landowner could purchase some credits from others. If those credits were in excess of what was needed for the development, the extra credits could be sold to another landowner.
  3. 3. Adjoining landowners could collaborate to preserve several parcels simultaneously, thereby increasing the contiguity value of each of their preservation actions. Such cooperation could yield a particularly targe number of credits for the landowners if the combination of parcels creates a new connection between two habitat patches in the preserve network. The landowners could then sell the credits they receive.
  4. 4. If the RCHCA or a conservancy group desired that a particular parcel of high habitat value be preserved, it could negotiate with the owner to purchase the parcel, preserve it, and obtain credits. The credits could either be left unused (thereby increasing the total conservation value to be preserved), retired (thereby decreasing the mitigation burden on private landowners), or sold to replenish a revolving fund for future acquisitions. See subsection 4(a) below regarding unused and retired credits; see Section 0(4) below regarding direct RCHCA habitat acquisitions.

4. Variations on the General Approach

This subsection describes variations on the approach described above that would also be permitted under the HTM alternative.

a. Unused and Retired Credits

There is no obligation for a person who obtains conservation credits to sell those credits. A person with credits may, in fact, choose to either leave the credits unused or to "retire" the credits. When credits are left unused, they are still counted as having been used to permit a corresponding amount of take for purposes of adjusting the conservation ratio (see Section E(1) below regarding annual adjustment of the conservation ratio). Since the take has not actually occurred, the effect is to increase the total amount of conservation value preserved under the HCP beyond the target conservation value. If a person retires credits, the credits are no longer counted as having permitted take of habitat. Because there has been preservation with a guarantee of no corresponding take, they are not counted as having been used to permit take when adjusting the conservation ratio, and the conservation ratio is therefore reduced. In essence, a person who chooses not to sell conservation credits can either put those credits toward an increase in conservation value or toward a decrease in landowner burden.

b. Public Lands

Public lands would generally be treated like private lands for purposes of the tong-term SKR Plan. If a public agency permanently preserves SKR habitat and allows it to be managed by the RCHCA, it will receive credits in accordance with fts habitat value, which it is free to use, hold, or sell. Similarly, public agencies may mitigate impacts on SKR conservation value by providing conservation credits. The following are exceptions to these general rules:

  1. 1. The RCHCA may not receive credits for lands it has purchased to offset take of SKR habitat that was allocated to landowners under the Short-Term HCP.
  2. 2. Federal and state agencies will be subject to the restrictions of the HCP and will enjoy the benefits of the HCP only if they formally agree to submit their lands to tts restrictions.
  3. 3. Conservation credits will not be issued for public parks or open space unless such lands are specifically dedicated for permanent preservation in accordance with the HCP, and such lands shall be treated as not part of the preserve network unless and until they are so preserved.
c. Conservation Easements

Any public or private landowner may preserve land by a conservation easement in favor of the RCHCA rather than by grant deed to the RCHCA. Such a conservation easement must, however, forbid all uses other than as an SKR habitat reserve, with such restrictions as the RCHCA may adopt for time to time for other portions of the SKR reserve (except with the prior approval of the resource agencies). The conservation easement must also grant the RCHCA full control over the management of the land. The option of using a conservation easement rather than a grant deed provides flexibility to avoid legal or other restrictions against grants of fee title to land. It may also provide means of preserving portions of a parcel without being required to subdivide it under the Subdivision Map Act.

d. Replacement Preservation

A landowner who sets aside habitat and receives conservation credits may retain the right to later replace the habitat preserved with habitat or with conservation credits of equal conservation value. A conservation easement would be the method of preservation in such cases. If management costs were incurred by the RCHCA (e.g., fencing or habitat enhancement) after the original grant of easement, dollar compensation for those management costs must be paid to the RCHCA along with the replacement habitat or credits. If the original habitat offering increased in conservation value after it was preserved because of adjacent preservation, the replacement habitat would be required to match the higher conservation value. Once the replacement has occurred, the landowner would still be required to provide conservation credits in order to develop the land that was formerly preserved.

The replacement preservation option would provide added flexibility to owners of large tracts of land when they cannot be certain which portions of their land will be most valuable to develop or preserve in the tong term. Since the conservation value of the original preservation must be matched by any replacement preservation, this option does not compromise the overall conservation value of the preserve network.

e. Restoration and Enhancement

Landowners may desire to restore and/or enhance habitat before offering it for preservation in order to increase its habitat value (and therefore the number of conservation credits the landowner can receive). The RCHCA shall publish restoration and enhancement guidelines from time to time describing what restoration or enhancement activities a landowner may conduct on land currently occupied by SKR and providing restoration and enhancement suggestions based upon the best research available. Such guidelines must be approved by the resource agencies prior to publication.

f. Agriculture

Certain agricultural activities are partially compatible with the existence of the SKR, making them a special case under the HCP. In order to avoid placing an undue burden on agriculture, while providing incentives for agricultural conservation, the following special rules apply to agricultural activities:

1. Exemption for Ongoing Cultivation. All land under cultivation when the HCP takes effect, or which had been under cultivation during at least 6 months during the past 7 years, shall be designated as cultivated lands on the base map. Cultivation activities, including specified incidental land uses, may continue on cultivated lands without any requirement for surveys, payment of a conservation fee, or payment of conservation credits, regardless of fallow periods after the HCP takes effect and regardless of actual presence of SKR. Such lands shall be treated as having no habitat value for purposes of calculating the contiguity and shape factors. Owners of agricultural lands that were not initially designated as cultivated lands may petition to have their lands so designated upon offering sufficient evidence that their lands qualify as cultivated lands. Any conversion of cultivated lands from cultivation to other uses shall be treated the same as any other development activity under the HCP based on the actual conservation value of the converted land.

2. Agricultural Conservation Easements. Agricultural land which (a) is of a specified list of soils types, (b) is cultivated in accordance with specified rules, and (c) is adjacent to the preserve network, will be assigned a habitat value equal to 0.5 per acre for purposes of calculating the conservation value of granting a special agricultural conservation easement over such land. Provided that an owner of such land enters into a conservation easement in a form pre-approved by the RCHCA and the resource agencies restricting the land to such agricultural use and practices, the owner shall receive conservation credits in accordance with the conservation value of granting the easement. Individual landowners may negotiate variations on the pre-approved conservation easements and corresponding changes to the standard habitat value assigned. Agricultural conservation easements will permit replacement presentation in accordance with Section C(4)(b) above.

3. Preservation of Agricultural Land. Agricultural land which (a) is of a specified list of soils types, (6} was either last planted with specified crops or has been fallow for at least 12 months, and (c) is adjacent to the preserve network, will be assigned a habitat value equal to the greater of AS current habitat value in accordance with the normal valuation procedures or 1.0 points per acre for purposes of calculating the conservation value of preserving such land. All other agricultural land will be assigned a habitat value in accordance with the normal valuation procedures only.

g. Utilities

Utility companies and public agencies providing utility services will generally be treated the same as other landowners under the HCP, except that the following special rules shall apply:

1. Emergency Maintenance and Repair. Utility companies shall be automatically permitted to conduct emergency maintenance and repairs on existing facilities in accordance with guidelines published by the RCHCA from time to time with the concurrence of the resource agencies.

2. Temporary Disturbance. The construction, maintenance, and use of dirt or gravel roads used for maintenance and repair of utility facilities, and periodic boring or trenching of dirt areas for purpose of maintenance and repair of utility facilities, shall require mitigation in consolation credits at 50% of the level that would be required for other development activities on the same land.

3. Utility Conservation Easements. An owner of land that is used only for utility facilities may receive conservation credits for granting a conservation easement over such land in a form pre-approved by the RCHCA and the resource agencies restricting the use of portions of the land to conservation purposes only, restricting the use of other portions to temporary disturbance activities only (as in (2) above), and designating other areas as containing existing facilities which disturb the land. The credits given will be based upon the actual conservation value of the conservation-only areas, 50% of the actual conservation value for the portions designated for temporary soil disturbance, and no credit for the footprint of areas containing existing facilities, individual landowners may negotiate variations on the pre-approved utility conservation easements and corresponding changes to the habitat values assigned. Utility conservation easements will permit replacement preservation in accordance with Section C(4)(b) above.

D. Reserve Management Program

In order to assure the best use of program resources for the benefit of the SKR, an adaptive reserve management program for the reserve system is a key component of the HCP. Reserve management will be implemented in accordance with a Core Reserve Management Plan and will be funded from the conservation fund. Reserve management shall consist of both habitat management activities conducted by the RMCC and direct habitat acquisitions conducted by the RCHCA.

1. Core Reserve Management Plan

The RCHCA shall adopt a Core Reserve Management Plan (CRMP) from time to time upon the recommendation of the RMCC. The CRMP is similar to that described in the main text. The pri mary purpose of the CRMP is to establish priorities for reserve management activities based upon their conservation value and their cost effectiveness. The CRMP shall be updated upon each periodic review date under the monitoring program (described in Section E(2) below), and ai other times as may be necessary or appropriate.

2. Conservation Fund

Although the credit-trading component of the HTM alternative provides the primary means of habitat acquisition, there is still the need for cash to cover various costs of the HCP. These include the cost of ongoing reserve management, the cost of overall plan administration, and the cost of direct RCHCA. land acquisitions. All of these additional costs are funded out of a conservation fund that would be supplied from the following sources:

  1. 1. Any unspent monies generated by the Short-Term HCP.
  2. 2. The $1.950 per acre conservation fee (adjusted for inflation) collected on projects in the credit-exempt areas.
  3. 3. That portion of the $250 per conservation unit registration tee that is not needed to cover the cost of registering conservation credits: this excess portion is expected to be approximately $200 per conservation unit.
  4. 4. State and local bond issues, supplemental utility fees, and other local sources, to the extent available.
  5. 5. State and federal grants and other special funding, to the extent available.

3. Habitat Management Activities

The CRMP will establish priorities for undertaking management activities that are intended to provide the most benefit to SKR conservation for each dollar expended. The types of management activities that may be undertaken are listed in the main text. The management activities will be coordinated by the RMCC. The ongoing management will be funded out of a management endowment fund established in accordance with the CRMP using funds from the conservation fund.

4. Direct RCHCA Habitat Acquisitions

The CRMP will allocate management monies between habitat management of the existing preserve network and a revolving fund for direct RCHCA acquisitions of additional habitat. The credit-trading system is designed to bear the primary burden of habitat acquisition, so the need for direct RCHCA habitat acquisitions is provided primarily as a safety net tor the credit-trading component of the program. In addition to acquisitions out of the revolving fund. the RCHCA may, if the resources are available, make "supplemental acquisitions" as a means of (1) enhancing the amount of conservation that can be accomplished under the HCP and (2) relieving existing landowners from bearing all of the cost of the HCP. Revolving fund acquisitions and supplemental acquisitions are further described in the following two subsections.

a. Revolving Fund Acquisitions

Based on the CRMP, the RCHCA may allocate money to a revolving fund for key acquisitions. Moneys in the revolving fund would be used to acquire lands tor permanent preservation. The RCHCA would receive conservation credits tor the lands preserved, which it would auction or otherwise sell to replenish the revolving fund. In this manner, the fund can be repeatedly replenished.

Revolving fund acquisitions would not increase the total quantity of conservation value that gets preserved because the RCHCA will sell the credits generated by the preservation, which in turn will permit the same amount of development as 'if a private party preserved the land and obtained the credits. The RCHCA can use the revolving fund technique, however, to influence the location of preservation in the following ways:

  1. 1. Acquire particular parcels on which it discovers special conservation values that it desires to ensure are preserved.
  2. 2. "Seed" an area with newly preserved habitat to provide a magnet that attracts future preservation to the same area (by virtue of the contiguity adjustment).
  3. 3. Acquire key parcels needed to start or complete a new corridor between reserve patches or between a reserve patch and other natural lands. The use of the revolving fund for these various purposes would be in accordance with priorities established by the CRMP.
b. Supplemental Acquisitions

Supplemental acquisitions are acquisitions of habitat that are not followed by the sale of the resulting conservation credits to replenish the revolving fund. Instead, the credits are either left unused or retired in order to either increase the total amount of conservation value that will be preserved or to decrease the mitigation burden on private landowners (see Section C(4)(a) above regarding unused and retired credits). Potential sources for funding of supplemental acquisitions are public and private grants earmarked for acquisitions, state and local bond measures, and any conservation fund amounts that can be allocated to supplemental acquisitions under the CRMP after covering administration, habitat management, and revolving fund requirements.

Since supplemental acquisitions can be used either to increase total conservation or decrease economic burden, a tension is created over the use of supplemental acquisition funds. In order to encourage both conservation interests and landowner interests to support efforts to obtain funding for supplemental acquisitions, the RCHCA shall split the use of credits generated from supplemental acquisitions. Fifty percent of the credits shall be left unused to increase total conservation, and fifty percent shall be retired to decrease economic burden.

E. Monitoring Program

The monitoring program is an integral pan of the HTM alternative that is designed to assure that the conservation goats of the HOP are being satisfied and that no unnecessary economic burdens are being imposed by the plan. Under the monitoring program, as new information becomes available, the conservation ratio is automatically adjusted annually, the CRMP is adjusted from time to time as necessary, and numerous other changes can be made pursuant to a periodic review process. In addition, an emergency review may be initiated at anytime by USFWS or CDFG in the event of certain unforeseen circumstances.

1. Annual Adjustments to the Conservation Ratio

The HTM alternative is based upon assuring that, at a minimum, the target conservation value will be preserved in the long term, and that the preservation of the target conservation value is never precluded by development in the interim. In keeping with this objective, the conservation ratio will be adjusted annually and automatically, on each anniversary date of the commencement of the HCP, based upon the following formula:

Exhibit N

For purposes of this-formula, Target CVis the target conservation value: Preserved CVis the total conservation value that has been committed to permanent preservation; and Uncommitted CV is the total estimated conservation value existing within the plan area (based upon the official base map) less the conservation value already committed to preservation and less the total conservation value represented by unused conservation credits (retired conservation credits are not subtracted). The resulting conservation ratio shall be rounded upward \o the nearest 1/10. For example, if the formula yields a conservation ratio of 1.024, then the new, rounded conservation ratio would be 1.1 (i.e., 1.1-to-1).

Based on the foregoing formula, the discovery that less uncommitted conservation value exists than previously shown on the base map will resuH in an increase in the conservation ratio. Conversely, the discovery that more uncommitted conservation value exists than previously shown on the base map will result in a decrease in the conservation ratio. Also, if a public agency or other entity preserves habitat, then retires the resulting credits (rather than holding them or selling them), the conservation ratio will decrease.

2. Periodic Reviews

Periodic reviews shall be conducted beginning on the following anniversary dates of the HCP (periodic review dates): the first, second, third, sixth, ninth, twelfth anniversary dates, and each fifth anniversary date thereafter. On each scheduled periodic review date, the RCHCA shall deliver to the resource agencies the current base map and an accounting (both in terms of changes since the previous periodic review and cumulatively) of the current conservation value preserved, conservation value uncommitted, conservation credits issued, and conservation credits retired. On the same date, the RMCC shall deliver to the resource agencies a qualitative report on the condition of habitat and species in each portion of the preserve network, a description of management activities utilized and an evaluation of their success, the results of any special studies performed since the RMCC's previous report, and an evaluation of any extraordinary threats to the long-term survival of the SKR that ft has discovered. Based upon all of this information, and any other information obtained by the RCHCA or the resource agencies form any source, adjustments can be made to the HCP, if necessary. Such adjustments fall into three categories-CRMP modifications, minor HCP adjustments, and major HCP adjustments.

a. CRMP Modifications

As discussed in Section D(1) above, the CRMP is modified upon each periodic review, and at other times as necessary. In this manner, the reserve management strategy can be adjusted at any appropriate time to accommodate new information or understanding without an amendment to the HCP.

b. Minor HCP Adjustments

Minor HCP adjustments are those that are anticipated under the Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Impact Statement (EIR/EIS) and are permisstole with minimal review. The following are minor HCP adjustments:

1. Modifications to Biological Survey Guidelines. Modifications to the biological survey guidelines for determining the density of active SKR burrows.

2. ModMicaltons to Habitat Value Point Assignments. Modifications to the number of points per acre assigned to each category of SKR presence or absence.

3. Minor Additions to Plan Area. Modifications of plan area boundaries that add land with an aggregate estimated conservation value of no more than 5% of that existing in the plan area prior to the adjustment, based upon the base map. In order to qualify as a minor HCP adjustment, the conservation ratio must be adjusted using the formula described in Section D(1) above after adding the values pertaining to the land to be annexed. For purposes of that calculation, the amount to be added to the target conservation value shall be the total estimated conservation value existing within the annexed area multiplied by the following-factor:

Exhibit O

Minor HCP adjustments must be proposed within 30 days after a periodic review date by the RCHCA, USFWS, or CDPG (these parties shall be referred to as the "coordinating agencies"). The proposal shall be made by notifying all persons who have previously submitted a request tor such notices. A 30-day public comment period shall commence from the date of the notice. If at the end of the public comment period any coordinating agency has objected to the proposed adjustment, then the adjustment may be made as a major HCP adjustment (see .subsection (c) below). If no such objection is made, then the party which proposed the adjustment shall have an additional 30 days to review the public comments and decide whether to make the adjustment final, abandon the proposed adjustment, or modify the adjustment and submit the modified proposal tor an additional 90-day review in the same manner as the initial review. No CEQA or NEPA processing will be necessary tor minor HCP adjustments because minor HCP adjustments will be contemplated by the original EIR/EIS. The HCP shall operate as usual (without the adjustment) while a minor HCP adjustment is under review.

c. Major HCP Adjustments

Major HCP adjustments are any adjustments to the HCP recommended by a coordinating agency which do not qualify as minor HCP adjustments. Such adjustments may include, without limitation, changes to the conservation fee or the registration fee, a change of the target conservation value, additions to the plan area that do not qualify as minor, etc.

Major HCP adjustments must be proposed within 60 days after a periodic review date by a coordinating agency. The proposal shall be made by notifying the other Coordinating Agencies and all persons who have previously submitted a request tor such notices. A 60-day public comment period shall commence from the date of the notice. During the second 30 days of the comment period, the RCHCA Board shall hold a public hearing on the proposed modification (unless the RCHCA is proposing the adjustment and previously held a public hearing on the matter) and shall vote whether to approve it, disapprove it, or approve it with modifications. If the adjustment is approved by the RCHCA Board with modifeations, then the RCHCA shall so notify the other coordinating agencies. If the RCHCA Board approves the adjustment and, by 30 days after the closing of the comment period, the party which proposed the adjustment has approved any changes to it approved by the RCHCA, and none of the other coordinating agencies have entered a written objection to the proposed adjustment, then the adjustment will be deemed approved. If the adjustment is not approved, the party which proposed it may submit a revised proposal within 30 days for processing in accordance with the foregoing.

If counsel to the RCHCA or to the party that proposed the adjustment deems it necessary to take action to comply with CEQA and/or NEPA, then the foregoing process shall be modified to accommodate concurrent CEQA and/or NEPA processing. The HCP shall operate as usual (without the adjustment) while a major HCP adjustment is under review.

3. Emergency Reviews

In the event of unforeseen circumstances (as defined in the main text) which create a substantial risk of precluding the survival and recovery of the SKR if changes are not made to the HCP prior to the next scheduled periodic review date, either USPWS or CDPG may commence an emer gency review. An agency commences an emergency review by notifying the other coordinatinc agencies and all persons who have previously submitted a request for such notices of the corn mencement of the review and of the unforeseen circumstances which gave rise to the emergency review. The agency calling the emergency review may, if it deems necessary, suspend the issu ance of new conservation credits during the pendency of the emergency review.

Commencement of an emergency review starts a 30-day public comment period during which the other coordinating agencies and members of the public may suggest adjustments to the HCP to remove the emergency condition. Within 30 days after the close of the public comment period the agency that commenced the emergency review must specify the adjustments to the HCP, o alternative sets of adjustments, that would remove the emergency condition. If within 60 day: thereafter, the RCHCA approves such a course of action, or another course of action which is approved by the agency that commenced the emergency review, then the HCP shall continui with such adjustments; otherwise, the agency that commenced the emergency review may sus pend or revoke its permit to take SKR.

In the event that an emergency condition exists because of a failure of a coordinating agency o an RCHCA member jurisdiction to fulfill its obligations under the HCP, then the default provisions of the implementing agreements for the HCP, and not this subsection, shall apply.

F. Biological Surveys

The habitat value of land under the HTM alternative is determined by surveys performed by qualified biologists under contract to the RCHCA. The base map will be updated based on each survey that is certified in accordance with this section.

1. Types of Biological Surveys

Three types of biological surveys may be performed in furtherance of the HCP: habitat value surveys, habitat value estimates, and exemption surveys. The scope and purpose of each of these types of surveys is as follows:

1. Habitat Value Survey. This is the ordinary survey performed to determine the habitat value of a parcel of land in order to calculate the credits available for preserving the parcel or the credits required for developing a parcel (base map information may be used for calculating contiguity factors, but is not sufficient to determine the habitat value of a given parcel). A habitat value survey involves a procedure of sampling transects to estimate active SKR burrow density.

2. Habitat Value Estimates. This is a survey performed for purposes of refining the base map. It employs rougher means for determining presence of SKR and tor estimating burrow densities than a habitat value survey. It is not sufficient for purposes of calculating the actual habitat value of the land surveyed, but 'it is sufficient for purposes of calculating contiguity and shape factors. A habitat value estimate may not be used to override the existing base map information if the existing information is based upon more precise surveys than the habitat value estimate, and such surveys are no more than three years old.

3. Exemption Surveys. This is a survey performed only to confirm the absence of any habitat value. If any habitat value is found, the survey report simply states that fact, and no adjustment is made to the base map. If the absence of habitat value is confirmed, then the area surveyed is designated a credit-exempt area, and conservation credits can thereafter neither be issued tor preserving land in that area nor required for development within that area. Only a subsequent habitat value survey can reverse the credit-exempt area designation. Credit-exempt areas are subject to the standard conservation fee.

Any private party may request that the RCHCA perform any of these three types of surveys so tong as the requester pays any relevant survey fee and access is available to the subject lands. The RCHCA may also perform any of these three types of surveys on its own initiative in furtherance of the HCP. As its resources allow, the RCHCA shall conduct ongoing exemption surveys to continually refine the base map as to the location of credit-exempt areas.

2. Survey Requirements and Fees

A current habitat value survey shall be required as part of the conservation value determination for purposes of issuing conservation credits for preserving habitat or requiring conservation credits for purposes of permitting the take of habitat. Only if land has been designated as part of a credit-exempt area will no survey be required prior to development. Agricultural lands in cultivated areas may be cultivated without a survey. A habitat value survey is current if it has been certified by the RCHCA within the previous nine (9) months, habitat value estimates and exemption surveys are never required, but a party may find it advantageous to have one of these optional surveys performed.

The cost of surveys that are performed at the request of a landowner shall be reimbursed to the RCHCA based upon a standard fee schedule that takes into account the number of acres to be surveyed and the type of survey to be performed. The fee shall be waived for the first 10 acres of survey work requested by any given landowner on his or her own land during any two-year period. The fee for an exemption survey shall be reimbursed to a landowner who requests it for any portion of his or her land that is designated as a credit-exempt area as a result of the survey.

3. Survey Process

Biological surveys must be certified by the RCHCA before they may be used for any purpose under the HCP. The survey and certification process will take between 90 and 180 days for parcels of 100 acres or less, and between 150 and 270 days for parcels of more than 100 acres. The actual time depends upon whether or not the initial survey is challenged. The survey process is set forth here.

Each time a survey is certified, regardless of survey type, the base map is updated to reflect the new information, and contiguity and shape factors are thereafter calculated based upon the updated base map.

4. Survey Guidelines

All surveys shall be performed in accordance with survey guidelines which are published by the RCHCA from time to time with the concurrence of the resource agencies. The survey guidelines shall set forth the methodology to be used by biologists to determine the density of active SKR burrows, including a method for determining which burrows should be counted as SKR burrows. The procedures required shall be designed to provide good quality data for their cost; costly procedures that yield only marginal increases in data quality will be avoided. The procedures required for each type of survey shall be appropriate for the level of accuracy they are intended to achieve. The procedures for habitat value surveys shall be the most rigorous.

5. Qualification of Survey Biologists

All biologists retained by the RCHCA to conduct SKR surveys for purposes of the HCP must be qualified to perform the surveys. In order to be qualified, a biologist must be permitted by USFWS to trap SKR and must sit for a seminar with the RCHCA staff biologists on the HCP and the biological guidelines. If a biologist meets these qualifications, the RCHCA may contract with the biologist or his or her firm to do survey work under the HCP. If at any time the Executive Director of the RCHCA or the RCHCA Board determines that a biologist is in breach of its contract with the RCHCA, is unwilling or unable to follow the survey guidelines, or is otherwise unfit to do survey work under the HCP, such biologist shall be disqualified from doing such further work.

G. Administration

The responsibilities of the coordinating agencies and the RCHCA member agencies with respect to the HCP shall be set forth in detail in the implementing agreements. This section provides a summary of those responsibilities.

1. Resource Agency Responsibilities

The HCP is administered primarily through the RCHCA and its member agencies. The RCHCA receives its authority to permit take, however, from a master take permit from USPWS under Section 10(a) of the federal ESA and from CDFG under an agreement pursuant to Section 2081 of the California Fish and Game Code (the Permit and Agreement). See Section H below for a discussion of how the HTM alternative can meet the requirements of the ESAs for the issuance of take authority.

Based upon the Permit and Agreement, the RCHCA will have the authority to permit individual projects to take SKR upon presentation of sufficient conservation credits in accordance with the HCP. The role of the resource agencies after the issuance of the Permit and Agreement is primarily as follows:

  1. 1. To monitor the RCHCA to ensure that it is authorizing take only in accordance with the HCP:
  2. 2. To participate as a member of the RMCC;
  3. 3. To participate in the monitoring program by proposing changes to the HCP as appropriate and by calling tor and participating in emergency reviews if necessary;
  4. 4. To review survey guidelines, restoration and enhancement guidelines, emergency utility maintenance and repair guidelines, and acceptable forms of conservation easements from time to time, as requested by the RCHCA: and
  5. 5. To evaluate proposed exceptions to forms of conservation easement and other matters when they are proposed.

The resource agencies ultimately have the authority to suspend or revoke the Permit and Agreement if the RCHCA is allowing significant take to occur that is not in accordance with the HCP or if an emergency review is called, and sufficient steps are not taken by the RCHCA to remove the conditions that prompted the need tor the emergency review. Upon a suspension or revocation of the Permit and Agreement, no new consolation credits will be issued, but conservation credits then in circulation may be used to obtain project take permits in accordance with the HCP.

2. RCHCA Responsibilities

The RCHCA has overall responstoility tor the administration of the provisions of HCP. Its responsibilities after the issuance of the Permit and Agreement are summarized as follows:

  1. 1. To contract with staff biologists and survey biologists to carry out the survey provisions of the HCP:
  2. 2. To contract with an accounting firm to perform the duties of the Registrar described under subsection (5) below, and to oversee the Registrar:
  3. 3. To contract with an accounting firm other than the Registrar prior to each periodic review date, and at such other times as it deems necessary or appropriate, to audit the Registrar;
  4. 4. To contract with a law firm to provide general legal advice to the RCHCA and to review the forms of grant deeds and conservation easements to ensure that they are in accordance with the approved forms and properly executed and recorded:
  5. 5. To participate as a member of the RMCC and provide staff lo the RMCC as it deems appropriate;
  6. 6. To provide annual reports to the public and to the resource agencies on the status of the HCP;
  7. 7. To implement the monitoring program in accordance with the HCP;
  8. 8. To collect fees from its member agencies for projects occurring in credit-exempt areas;
  9. 9. To publish from time to time, upon advice from the RMCC and with the concurrence of the resource agencies, survey guidelines, restoration and enhancement guidelines, emergency utility maintenance and repair guidelines, and acceptable forms of conservation easements;
  10. 10. To manage administrative costs so as to make as much of the conservation fund as possible available for the acquisition of key habitat and for the management of the reserve system; and
  11. 11. To promulgate regulations from time to time that provide detailed guidance regarding the implementation of the procedures set forth in the HCP.

3. Member Agency Responsibilities

Each member agency of the RCHCA shall have the following responsibilities:

  1. 1. To establish and administer a process to require the presentation of a project take permit prior to allowing any activity to occur within its jurisdiction that would disturb land that is within the plan area, unless the land has been designated on the base map as a creditexempt area (each jurisdiction may use its normal permitting processes as the checkpoint for this requirement for any activities which require a permit from the agency);
  2. 2. To collect the conservation fee prior to allowing disturbance of land within the creditexempt areas; and
  3. 3. To enforce the illegal take ordinance descrteed in subsection (6} below, and report such enforcement actions to the RCHCA. If a member agency fails to meet any of its responsibilities in a material manner, the RCHCA shall suspend the issuance of any new conservation credits for preservation of land in that agency's jurisdiction and the issuance of project take permits for projects within that agency's jurisdiction until the member agency has remedied its failure to the satisfaction of the RCHCA.

4. RMCC Responsibilities

Each member of the RMCC shall have the followina resoonsibilities:

  1. 1. To carry out specific responsibilities allocated to it for the implementation of the habitat management portion of the CRMP;
  2. 2. To participate in the RMCC's production of a qualitative report on the preserve network in conjunction with each periodic review.
  3. 3. To recommend from time to time, and in no event less frequently than upon each periodic review, an updated CRMP; and
  4. 4. To advise the RCHCA from time to time, at the request of the RCHCA, on adoption of survey guidelines, restoration and enhancement guidelines, emergency utility maintenance and repair guidelines, and acceptable forms of conservation easements.

5. Registrar Responsibilities

The RCHCA is required to contract with an accounting firm to act as the "Registrar" for the HCP. The Registrar is the central clearing house for the creation, exchange, and use of credits. The Registrar will subcontract with an escrow and title insurance company and an engineer to assist it in verifying and registering conservation credit transactions.

Landowners are required to register the following actions:

1. Creation of Credits. To obtain conservation credits for a preservation action, the landowner must apply to the Registrar with (a) a certified habitat value survey for the land to be preserved, {b) a completed standard worksheet showing the landowner's calculation of the conservation value of the preservation action, (c) an executed grant deed or grant of conservation easement in a standardized form for the land being preserved. The Registrar verifies the amount of credit, checks the form of the grant deed or conservation easement, and verifies that the grantor has insurable fee title, free and clear of monetary liens (except liens for nondelinquent property taxes and assessments). When all such items are in order, the Registrar records the grant deed or conservation easement and issues conservation credits to the grantor.

2. Transfer of Credits. To transfer conservation credits from one landowner to another, the transferor must sign the credits over to the Registrar, give the Registrar the name and address of the transferee and the dollar price paid for the transfer, and pay a flat $100 transfer fee. The Registrar will issue a new certificate in the name of the transferee and mail it to the transferee.

3. Spending of Credits to Obtain Prelect Tate Permits. To use conservation credits, a landowner must apply to the Registrar with (a) a certified habitat value survey for the land to be disturbed, {b) a completed standard worksheet showing the landowner's calculation of the conservation value to be lost by the disturbance, (c) conservation credits sufficient to compensate for the proposed disturbance, (cf) an assignment of those credits to the RCHCA in a standardized form, and (e) a registration fee of $250 per credit. The Registrar verifies the number of credits required and checks the form of assignment. When those items are in order, the Registrar issues a taking permit to the applicant for the parcel(s) described in the application.

The Registrar will process all requests for registration within five (5) days, and will act upon requests in the order they are received. If a check of conservation value by the Registrar yields a less favorable conservation value than indicated by the worksheet completed by the applicant, the Registrar will immediately notify the applicant and suspend processing of the application until the applicant notifies the Registrar whether it wishes to go forward with the application.

The Registrar will make the following information available to the public to facilitate habitat evaluations and transactions in conservation credits:

  1. 1. The current base map.
  2. 2. The current size of each patch of undisturbed habitat, and the contiguity factor for each of those patches.
  3. 3. The current size of each patch of habitat in the preserve network, and the contiguity factor for each of those patches.
  4. 4. The current shape factor for the plan area.
  5. 5. The current shape factor for the preserve network.
  6. 6. A list of the transfers of conservation certificates, with the following information for each transfer: number of credits transferred, sale price, and description of any special terms of transfer (such as seller financing).

6. Enforcement Against Illegal Take

Each member agency shall have in place an ordinance that imposes an automatic penalty for any disturbance of land in the plan area that is not in accordance with the HOP or otherwise permitted by State or federal law. The penalty shall be to obtain and assign to the RCHCA conservation credits equal to the number that would have been required to obtain a permit for the disturbance, but assuming a habitat value of 2.5 habitat units per acre, which is 25% greater than the greatest habitat value that can otherwise be assigned to a parcel. Since the penalty credits are greater than the highest possible credit requirement for permitted take, the penalty system leaves no incentive whatsoever for illegal take to occur. The penalty shall become a lien against the parcels affected, and no activity shall be allowed on the disturbed parcels until the penalty is paid in full. The enforcement measures described in this subsection are in addition to any law enforcement actions that the federal or State government may take under federal or state law.

7. Summary of Program Funding

Acquisitions under the HTM alternative are funded entirely by the issuance of conservation credits and therefore require no outside funding source. Costs that must be funded are general RCHCA administrative costs, the cost of biological surveys, credit registration and transfer costs. the cost of ongoing reserve management, and the cost of any direct RCHCA habitat acquisitions. The funding sources for these various costs are summarized betow:

Exhibit Q

H. Multi-Species Planning

The HCP, as presented in the main text, would achieve its purposes in a more simple fashion than the HTM alternative would allow. This fact is due in large part to the existence of the core reserves described in the main text. By contrast, the existence of numerous endangered, threatened, and sensitive species on thousands of parcels of private land across Western Riverside County continues to create an intractable problem for both the environmental and economic health of the region. In this context, the HTM approach could be a valuable implementation tool for a multi-species HCP. The HTM approach is well-suited to the challenge of achieving quantifiable multi-species protection while providing landowners with a certain and equitable means of addressing project impacts to most Western Riversidian species. A multi-species HCP would be a major step toward ending the biological and economic tragedy of having to deal with one endangered species listing after another in Western Riverside County, and the HTM approach could help make such a multi-species HCP practical.

The same basic methodology presented in this appendix for the SKR can be adapted for multispecies planning. Since the sage scrub, chaparral, and grassland habitat types typically occur in a mosaic across Western Riverside County, these three habitat types could be considered for protection together using a single type of credit and an integrated conservation valuation methodology. Since the SKR inhabits a type of native grassland, SKR take permitting might also be covered by the new sage/chaparral/grasslands (SCG) credit system.

In addition to the SCG credits, which would cover a large percentage of the remaining natural habitat in Western Riverside County, separate credits might be developed for the following:

  1. 1. Riparian habitat, with the objectives of (a) no net loss of wetlands habitat, (6) qualification for a take permit under Section 10(a) of the federal ESA for listed and other sensitive riparian species, and possibly (c) qualification for a programmatic filling and dredging (Section 404} permit from the Army Corps of Engineers for small to moderate fills that may not otherwise qualify for a nationwide permit (e.g" up to 25 acres).
  2. 2. Oak woodlands habitat, with the objective of meeting or exceeding the level of protection provided by the existing oak tree ordinance.
  3. 3. Vernal pool habitat, with the objective of qualification for a take permit under Section 10(a) of the federal ESA for Riverside fairy shrimp and other sensitive vernal pool species.

Other species that require very specialized habitats or occur in very limited geographic ranges may not be conducive to protection using the HTM approach and may have to be protected by other means. Most such species that have attained protected status are plant species, for which mitigation is typically easier to provide than for animal species. As part of the multi-species HCP, the RCHCA might undertake a planting program to attempt to expand the populations of rare plant species on appropriate sites within the multi-species preserve network. Such populations could serve as a habitat bank for mitigation of project impacts on those species.

For each of the four types of credit-SCG, riparian, oak woodlands, and vernal pool-separate biological criteria would be developed. Except for the oak woodlands, the biological criteria for these credits would emphasize overall habitat quality and diversity, using presence of selected target or indicator species as well as other measures of habitat quality. Each of the four habitat types would have its own contiguity factor, although contiguity among habitat types may also be given a certain amount of value. Similarly, the shape of each habitat type may have its own value, but the combined shape of all protected habitat could also be considered.

Many parcels will contain more than one type of habitat. For example, a parcel might be predominantly SCG, with a riparian corridor and a patch of Munz's onion. In such a case, the conservation value for both SCG and riparian would be considered, and credits would be given or required (depending on whether the land is to be preserved or developed) for both. Since Munz's onion would not be covered by the general credit system, the landowner could either seek to bank Munz's onion values for sale to other landowners, or perhaps relocate the onions to a suitable site within the multi-species as a mitigation measure for developing the parcel.

When doing multiple-species planning, it will be critical to landowners that they receive as much assurance as possible that offering credits will solve their endangered species problem, with minimal risk that future listings will halt future phases of their projects. Existing law does not give clear standing to pre-listing endangered species permits, but it is hoped, and coming to be expected, that pre-listing permitting authority will be clarified with the reauthorization of the federal ESA. If Riverside County moves toward multi-species planning, it should consider lobbying for this change, or for a pilot program for the County that would provide the benefits of a pre-listing take permit.

I. Meeting ESA Requirements

The HCP must satisfy the criteria of Section 10(a) of the federal ESA and Section 2081 of the California Fish and Game Code in order to be the basis for the issuance of the Permit and Agreement. This section discusses the conservation assurances of the HTM alternative generally, then discusses in detail how the HCP could meet the requirements of the ESAs for issuance of take authority.

1. Summary of Conservation Assurances

a. Existing Preserved Land

The first assurance is that substantial acreage of land containing occupied SKR habitat has already been set aside for permanent preservation under the Short-Term HCP to form the initial core reserves. This assurance is not peculiar to the HTM alternative and is discussed more full) in the main text.

b. Inherent Safeguards

The HTM alternative provides substantial inherent safeguards which are calculated to assure that the conservation objectives of the HCP will be met (i.e., the target conservation value will be preserved). These assurances are summarized below:

  1. 1. The quantitative objective of protecting a given amount of conservation value (measured in conservation units) is assured of being attained in the long run by requiring mitigation in the form of preserving conservation value. This Is the key assurance because It Is the assurance of a particular resu/fthat is based upon sound principles of conservation biology.
  2. 2. The mitigation requirements make it impossible for any development or the accumulation of development to preclude the attainment of the target conservation value.
  3. 3. Because acquisitions are based on project mitigation, it is impossible to have a funding shortfall for purposes of attaining the target conservation value.
  4. 4. Mitigation always occurs prior to the take of habitat.
  5. 5. The contiguity and shape factors ensure that preservation will not be fragmented, but rather will occur in configurations that have substantial long-term conservation value.
c. Direct Agency Acquisitions

If the RMCC and the RCHCA find it appropriate, funds from the conservatton fund that are not needed for administrative costs or reserve management may be used to make key acquisitions within the plan area for the HCP. This option provides a means for the RCHCA to directly intervene to influence the conservation outcome rather than leave the outcome entirely to the results of the creation, trading, and use of conservation credits. Moreover, the RCHCA can replenish its acquisition fund at least partially by selling the conservation credits it receives for preserving the land acquired. In this manner, an ongoing acquisition effort on the part of the RCHCA is greatly facilitated by the HTM Alternative.

d. Monitoring Pregram

As an additional safeguard, the HCP incorporates a comprehensive monitoring program. Under this program, new information that adjusts the estimated amount of existing SKR habitat results in an automatic adjustment in the conservatton ratio on an annual basis; new information regarding the efficacy of various management strategies can be effected at any time by modifying the CRMP; new information on the characteristics of SKR habitat value can be easily incorporated into the definition of habitat value at each periodic review; limitless other adjustments can be made to the HCP with the concurrence of the participating agencies at each periodic review; and emergency reviews that call for emergency action can be called by the resource agencies immediately upon a finding of certain adverse unforeseen circumstances. This multiple-ttered monitoring process provides an important set of fail-safes for the HCP.

2. Meeting of Federal ESA Requirements

The criteria applied to the review of applications for take permits under Section 10(a) of the federal ESA and a description of how each of these criteria is satisfied under the HTM alternative are shown in the following table:

Exhibit R

3. Meeting of State ESA Requirements

In order to issue take authority under Section 2081 of the California Pish and Game Code, CDPG must be able to determine that the proposed action (implementation of the HCP) will not jeopardize a listed or candidate species. Since the State ESA requires CDPG to coordinate with USPWS with respect to federally listed species and, whenever possible, adopt its findings, compliance with Section 10(a) of the federal ESA should, as a practical matter, result in a no jeopardy finding by CDPG. Therefore, the above description of how the HCP would complies with Section 10(a) of the federal ESA should suffice for purposes of Section 2081.

J. Conclusion

The HTM alternative is designed to satisfy the requirements of the ESAs by employing economic incentives to preserve habitat. The HTM approach assures that quantifiable conservation objectives will be reached while providing landowners with certainty and flexibility concerning the use of their lands.

It may not be appropriate, however, to apply the HTM alternative to the HOP. Because substantial lands have been preserved under the Short-Term HCP, a long-term plan for the SKR may be attainable in a relatively simple fashion. If the strategy descried in the main text is acceptable to the resource agencies, then there is little need for the HTM approach for purposes of the SKR alone. On the other hand, as the RCHCA faces the challenges of muK'i-species planning, it may find the HTM approach to be a useful tool to assist in achieving the conservation goals and economic needs of the community.


Attachment 1 - Calculation of Conservation Value under the HTM Alternative

The procedure for calculating the habitat value and the conservation value of any given configuration of habitat is described in detail below.

A. Habitat Value

The habitat value of a parcel or group of parcels refers to its inherent habitat quality, based upon the oresence of SKR. Do to 2.0 ooints oer acre are awarded to the land area as follows:

Exhibit S

Applying this point system using the survey guidelines referred to in Section E(4) of the text v yield a habitat value of between 0.0 and 2.0 points per acre for any given parcel of land.

B. Adjustments to Determine Conservation Value

In order to determine the conservation value of the plan area or the preserve network at any po in time, the habitat value of such area must be adjusted for contiguity and shape as follows:

1. Contiguity Adjustment

The habitat value is 'first adjusted for contiguity. Each patch of habitat has a contiguity fac based upon the habitat value of the patch. The contiguity-adjusted value of the plan area or p serve network is determined by multiplying the habitat value of each patch by the contiguity factor for that patch. A formula represented by the following graph is used to determine the contiguity factor for each patch of habitat:

Exhibit T

The formula for the contiguity factor represented by the foregoing curve is as follows for any habitat patch with a habitat value x that is greater than 0:

Exhibit U

Note that the contiguity factor for a habitat patch with a habitat value of 1,000 is 1.0, and that the contiguity factor approaches, but is never greater than or equal to 2.0. The RCHCA will publish a table of contiguity factors to facilitate calculation of conservation values without the use of the above formula.

For purposes of these calculations, a contiguous habitat patch is defined as the maximum unbroken area from any given starting point (insisting of any combination of SKR habitat with an unadjusted habitat value of at least 1.0 point per acre and alt natural land within a radius of 300 feet of all such SKR habitat. Any place where such a patch is connected only by land with a minimum width of 300 teet or less shall be considered a break in contiguity at that point. The mapping of contiguous habitat on the base map shall govern contiguity calculations, subject to updates of the base map with more detailed surveys.

2. Shape Adjustment

Finally, the contiguity-adjusted habitat value is adjusted for shape. A single shape factor exists for the entire plan area or preserve network based on the total land area ( A) and the total perimeter ( P ) of all the habitat patches combined. The formula for the shape factor is as follows:

Exhibit V

This formula will yield a factor between 0 and 1, which is applied to the total contiguity-adjusted habitat value of the plan area or the preserve network to produce the conservation value of such area in terms of conservation units. As for the contiguity factor, the RCHCA will publish a table of shape factors to facilitate calculation of conservation values without the use of the above formula.

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