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Landowner-Centered Conservation

Landowners Restoring Their Land and Waterways

Homeowners restoring land

Two-thirds of assessed waterways in California are impaired by pollutants. A staggering 90-95% of the state’s streamside, or riparian, forests have been removed. Almost 60% of the North Coast’s streams, home to several species of salmon and steelhead, are affected by sediment. Ten species of these iconic migratory fish are now listed as threatened or endangered, and Central Coast coho salmon and Southern California steelhead populations are barely hanging on.

Many ranchers, farmers and other rural landowners want to restore their land and the waterways that flow through their properties; however, the process to do so is complicated and expensive. When proposing to restore an eroded creek bank, for example, or to upgrade an outdated stream crossing, landowners must apply to as many as eight agencies for permits and wait as long as three years for approval. As a result, many farmers and ranchers forego opportunities to restore the natural resources under their care.

Because more than 50% of California is privately owned and a vast majority of California’s rivers and streams flow through or along private property, engaging these individuals is of vital importance.

Our Solution

Successful restoration benefits everyone – the environment, the community and the landowner. Sustainable Conservation worked with regulatory agencies and local organizations such as Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) and others to develop “pre-approved” permits for voluntary stream, riparian, and wetlands restoration and erosion control efforts. These permits, available in nine counties, eliminate the need for landowners to gain case-by-case approval from multiple regulatory agencies. As a result of our Partners in Restoration work, complex permitting is no longer a disincentive in some parts of the state, and with technical and funding assistance available from government and local partners, property owners looking to improve natural resources in their care can get projects planned, designed and completed.

Sustainable Conservation is expanding this approach by partnering with federal and state agencies to develop statewide or regional permits for projects that improve water quality and enhance fish and wildlife habitat. By avoiding the cost and time involved in developing multiple project specific permits, Sustainable Conservation will greatly accelerate and expand the scope and impact of voluntary restoration throughout the state. Our success will be measured by increases in the number of permitted riparian habitat restoration projects, reductions in sediment escaping into rivers and streams, and the amount of streamside and wetlands habitat restored.