Rivers & Lands Conservancy works with developers, public works agencies, and other entities to help them meet conservation requirements on development projects that impact sensitive habitat and species. Mitigation is a project requirement to lessen the severity of potential impacts upon the environment by taking measures to avoid, minimize, or restore the impacted resources, or to provide replacement resources as compensation. CEQA requires the permanent protection of mitigation areas avoided, restored, or set aside as compensatory measure. Permanent protection and preservation can be in the form of conservation easements or fee title conveyance.
You can find out more about CEQA and the mitigation process for environmental resources below.
Who Needs Mitigation?
Private property owners, land developers, cities, county, and other government entities are required to complete environmental analysis and implement required mitigation measures to offset proposed project impacts to land, water, or species of concern. The project proponent proposes mitigation measures to avoid, minimize, or compensate for potential impacts habitat, farmland, or other open space. A local lead agency reviews the environmental impact documents, evaluates the level of effect upon the environment, and determines if the impacts are significant and if it is feasible to mitigate the impacts. Natural resource agencies also review the project and conduct their own assessment of impacts based their sphere of regulatory oversight.
Regulations that Require Mitigation
The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires public lead agencies impose feasible mitigation measures as part of the project approval process to lessen or avoid adverse effects upon the environment, including habitat and wildlife. (California Code of Regulations, Title 14 (“CEQA Guidelines”), Section 15370)
Depending upon the type and location of the natural resource or species impacted by human actions, other state and federal agencies will require impact analysis and mitigation measures according to their own regulations and guidelines. Examples of natural resource agencies implementing and enforcing other state and federal environment laws include the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Regional Water Quality Control Board, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
Why Mitigation Matters
Land conservation is one type of mitigation measure to compensate for impacts to natural areas. Land conservation is permanently preserving, managing, and protecting natural habitats such as wetlands, deserts, forests, streams, lakes and even parklands, open space, agricultural fields, farmlands, and grazing lands. These compensatory mitigation lands will likely be transferred to a qualified land conservation organization via fee title or a conservation easement. These measures restrict future land use to protect the natural environment and the species within it.
Land trust organizations implement compensatory mitigation by serving as the property owner, conservation easement holder, endowment administrator, or land manager. Land conservation is part of a historical legacy of the increasing public awareness of the benefits of slowing or halting human-caused environmental impacts and the establishment of environmental policies to mitigate these impacts. In 1872, land conservation could be said to have begun with the creation of Yellowstone, the first national park in the United States, and continues through the efforts of public and private organizations and dedicated individuals.
Rivers & Lands Conservancy’s Mitigation Land Evaluation Process
RLC evaluates property proposed to serve as mitigation land. RLC conducts an evaluation (due diligence) prior to acquiring a property or conservation easement. Evaluation tasks include, but are not limited to, conducting a review of permit conditions, inspecting the property, assessing property management duties based on site conditions and the long-term management plan. RLC’s professional staff dedicates time and other resources in conducting an evaluation and charges a fee accordingly.
The long-term management plan is prepared by the project proponent and approved by the Agencies. RLC will review plan and other related documents, such as drainage, fencing, landscaping, and fire management plans. RLC will require accurate land survey boundaries and will review the land title for any rights or easements in conflict with the goals of the mitigation measure. RLC will prepare a stewardship budget itemizing the amount needed for an endowment to provide the required management, easement oversight, and reporting in perpetuity. The Conservation Easement and associated documents will be drafted by RLC’s legal counsel.
When documents are acceptable to both RLC and the project proponent, then the project proponent submits the legal documents and stewardship budget (“PAR”) to the Agencies for review. After the legal documents are approved by the agencies, RLC Board of Directors will review and vote on accepting the property. With approval by our Board of Directors, RLC will proceed with recordation. We work cooperatively with counties, cities, and other agencies, as well as with willing property owners in pursuing common goals. We are not litigious, nor politically aggressive, choosing instead to work cooperatively to facilitate and achieve protection environmentally important natural resources and wildlife.
What to do if you want to find out more about mitigating for a project
RLC is always available to meet with you to become familiar with your property, further explain our due diligence process, and to discuss how RLC could facilitate meeting the mitigation requirements. For assistance and additional information, please contact RLC Mitigation Coordinator Maria Lum by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 951-788-0670 x 1007.
Rivers & Lands Conservancy’s Credentials for Mitigation
Rivers & Lands Conservancy (RLC), a private non-profit land trust organization, serves as a third-party conservation entity to hold fee title lands or conservation easements over property identified as suitable mitigation land. RLC currently holds over 2,600 acres of conserved land valued at $19 Million and manages a cumulative endowment fund of $15 Million. RLC is accredited by the Land Trust Alliance (LTA). The LTA accreditation recognizes that RLC meets national standards for excellence, upholds the public trust, and ensures that conservation efforts are permanent. RLC is authorized by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) to hold mitigation lands. RLC is qualified to hold and manage land stewardship endowments in compliance with applicable state and federal legislation.