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Partners in Restoration


Building Local Capacity While Expanding Permit Coordination Throughout California

The Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) and Sustainable Conservation have successfully developed a permit process that enables landowners and regulators to satisfy regulatory requirements efficiently. Through our work in the Elkhorn Slough, Salinas River, Morro Bay, and Navarro River watersheds, landowners, staff from the Resource Conservation District (RCD) offices, and representatives from regulatory agencies around the state have called for this permit coordination service in their area. According to a survey conducted in 2000, there are 20 to 40 areas that are ready for permit coordination programs.

Unfortunately, the demand to deliver this program on a watershed-by-watershed basis exceeds Sustainable Conservation's staffing resources. Therefore, in order to meet the need, a program is underway to train local watershed stewards (including RCD staff and watershed planners) to develop permit coordination programs locally. This training program will leverage Sustainable Conservation's resources and experience, augment and compliment the technical capabilities of local RCDs and NRCS staff, and provide widespread adoption of this important conservation tool.

Through the training program, Sustainable Conservation will transfer its PIR permitting skills to, and increase capacity for, regulatory compliance within local organizations. The intent is to enlarge the pool of individuals and groups capable of implementing a permit coordination program and help them tailor the permit coordination model to the needs of their watershed plans. Sustainable Conservation will provide training, group coaching, and one-on-one mentoring. Sample documents, templates, and examples from Sustainable Conservation's previous efforts will be available to all participants. A detailed syllabus and training manual will guide the training.

Through the course of the projected 18-month program, trainees will participate in training sessions, arrange meetings and field trips, draft and coordinate permit applications, submit them to the agencies for review, and get them approved. This process involves the in-depth review of current land management practices and resource conditions, field trips to demonstrate and discuss the benefits of the practices, and develop program conditions and guidelines. These conditions will be created to address each area's unique issues, including water quality, land uses, and sensitive species.

Participants will receive intensive training and individual coaching on the requirements of each relevant regulatory agency. Guest speakers from regulatory agencies will educate the trainees on what the agencies require in a complete application and how to facilitate interagency communication.

A second component of the program is to train regulatory agency staff how to develop programmatic approvals. Sustainable Conservation's watershed work has identified qualified agency staff members whose experience in programmatic approvals will help this effort. Small group trainings will be created to pass on this knowledge.

By the end of 2006, Sustainable Conservation's goal is to provide this comprehensive training program to individuals representing 15 - 20 areas throughout California.