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Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan

Habitat Conservation Plan

Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan

Natural Community Conservation PlanThe East Bay Regional Park District (EBRPD) is currently developing a Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) for its eastern Contra Costa County and northern Alameda County parklands.  This project will cover over 21,000 acres of existing regional parks and trails and will contribute to regional conservation planning for some of the largest areas of endangered-species habitat in the Bay Area.  This comprehensive conservation strategy will cover activities related to EBRPD infrastructure operations and maintenance, wildland management, public access, park development, and HCP/NCCP implementation.

HikingThis proposed HCP/NCCP encompasses all or part of the following regional preserves: Black Diamond Mines, Morgan Territory, Round Valley, Vasco Caves, contra Loma Reservoir, Morgan Territory, Brushy Peak, Castle Rock and Diablo Foothills, Sycamore Valley and Clayton Ranch (currently in land bank status).

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Overview

EBRPD East Contra Costa and Alameda Counties HCP/NCCP
The East County Parks Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (EC Parks HCP/NCCP or Plan) is intended to provide an effective framework to protect natural resources in 10 East Bay Regional Park District (District) protected areas in eastern Contra Costa and northern Alameda Counties. The Plan will allow the District to carry out operation and maintenance activities and minor new construction that support its dual mission of providing recreational opportunities and protecting wildlife habitat, while providing comprehensive species and ecosystem conservation.

Background

Northern Alameda and East Contra Costa Counties (ECCC) comprise one of the most rapidly developing regions in California. This growth has resulted in significant loss of habitat along the valley floor and in foothill grasslands, chaparral, and oak woodlands as well as the fragmentation of wildlife corridors that benefit state and federally listed species.  The District has helped to offset these development impacts by acquiring managing, and enhancing a high-quality, diverse system of interconnected parklands, since its origins in 1934.  Since 2000, the District has assisted in the development and implementation of the ECCC Habitat Conservation Plan and Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) to protect these threatened resources.  The ECCC HCP/NCCP was approved in June 2007 and covers a variety of urban and rural development projects and activities. The District is a permit holder for that HCP/NCCP, but the plan only provides take authorization for District activities on new lands acquired as part of the HCP/NCCP Preserve System.  The plan does not provide take authorization for the District on existing parklands within the ECCC HCP/NCCP planning area.

The District has been limited in its ability to carry out or expand its dual mission of providing recreational opportunities and protecting wildlife habitat due to the presence of several listed species and the regulatory hurdles they present. This HCP/NCCP will provide incidental take coverage for District lands within and near the ECCC HCP/NCCP inventory area, thus allowing District activities to continue or to expand, while also coordinating with the existing ECCC HCP/NCCP to ensure consistent management and monitoring of covered species.

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Purpose

The District is seeking to develop a comprehensive conservation program that protects sensitive species within the plan area while receiving regulatory assurances for endangered-species compliance.  To that end, this Plan will describe how to avoid, minimize, and mitigate, to the maximum extent practicable, impacts on covered species and their habitats while allowing for operations, maintenance, and minor new construction in regional trails and in nine parks:
  • Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, 
  • Round Valley Regional Preserve,
  • Vasco Caves Regional Preserve,
  • Contra Loma Regional Park,
  • Morgan Territory Regional Preserve,
  • Brushy Peak Regional Preserve,
  • Castle Rock Regional Recreation Area,
  • Sycamore Valley Regional Open Space Preserve, and
  • Diablo Foothills Regional Park.
The Plan also includes coverage for the Clayton Ranch Land Bank - a restricted-access preserve owned and managed by the District.
This Plan is both a habitat conservation plan (HCP), intended to fulfill the requirements of the ESA, and a natural community conservation plan (NCCP) that will fulfill the requirements of the California Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCP Act).  As an NCCP, this Plan not only addresses impact mitigation but will also contribute to the recovery and delisting of listed species and help preclude the need to list additional species in the future.  The District is preparing this Plan as an NCCP to provide a higher level of conservation for the benefit of natural resources in East Contra Costa County than is strictly required for ESA compliance.  An NCCP also provides greater regulatory benefits and greater opportunities for state and federal funding (e.g., section 6 grants) than do other permitting options under state law.

Plan Objectives

In summary, this Plan will achieve the specific objectives listed below.
  • Provide comprehensive species, natural community, and ecosystem conservation in the study area.
  • Contribute to the recovery of endangered species in East Contra Costa County and northern California.
  • Build upon and coordinate with the regional system of habitat reserves, developed under the East Contra Costa County HCP/NCCP, to preserve, enhance, restore, manage, and monitor native species and the habitats and ecosystems upon which they depend. 
  • Allow issuance of permits to the District for lawful incidental take[1] of species listed as threatened or endangered pursuant to ESA and CESA.
  • Streamline and simplify the process for future incidental take authorization of currently non-listed species that may become listed during the term of the permit.
  • Standardize avoidance, minimization, and mitigation requirements of the ESA, CESA, NCCP Act, California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), and other applicable laws and regulations relating to biological and natural resources within the study area.
  • Provide the foundation for similar Plans to address endangered-species compliance throughout the Park System.
Incidental take authorization (referred to as take authorization) will be granted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFG) (collectively, the Wildlife Agencies).  The District is asking the Wildlife Agencies to issue permits that authorize incidental take of covered species.  The Plan includes a conservation strategy to compensate for impacts on these covered species.  The conservation strategy provides for the conservation and management of covered species and their habitats. The Wildlife Agencies will also provide assurances to the District that no further commitments of funds, land, or water will be required to address impacts on covered species beyond that described in the Plan as long as the District is adequately implementing the Plan.