This article was contributed by Arielle Goodspeed, Senior Planner, Resource Management Agency
San Benito County, along with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife has initiated the process of planning and developing a county-wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and Natural Community Conservation Plan (NCCP) called the San Benito County Conservation Plan (SBCCP). The San Benito County 2035 General Plan includes a policy identified under NCR-A: Habitat Conservation Plan; “The County shall consider working with the state and federal agencies to prepare and adopt a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for listed and candidate species in San Benito County.”
The SBC Board of Supervisors adopted Ordinance 541 on August 1, 1988, establishing a habitat conservation plan study area, and setting interim mitigation fees. Since 1988, the county has been collecting fees from Ordinance 541 in preparation for an HCP and now, between fees already collected, and additional funding anticipated from a federal grant (pending), county staff is able to begin work to implement Ordinance 541 and the 2035 General Plan. County residents can expect to see that this effort is value added to the whole community. There are many benefits for having HCP/NCCP’s in place, including:
- Streamlined endangered species permitting process for projects
- Provides necessary agency permits
- Increase in local control
- Improved mitigation and conservation outcomes for listed and sensitive species
- Creates new open space
- Creates new recreation
- Protects watersheds
- Protects viewsheds
- Implements local policies
- Mitigates takings that will prevent new species listings
- Protects species against the effects of climate change
- The county and residents become eligible for HCP Land Acquisition Program
- Attracts new money for conservation
As part of the county’s planning and development for the San Benito County Conservation Plan there will be extensive public and stakeholder outreach to ensure that residents and stakeholders, including agricultural stakeholders, developer stakeholders, tribal stakeholders, and environmental stakeholders, have multiple opportunities to provide input and help shape the plan. The county expects to find out before the end of the summer if it will be awarded grant funds to begin work on this effort.
At this time, county staff would like to introduce the San Benito County Conservation Plan, and let you know we will be coming back later this year, if we are awarded federal funding, to provide more detailed information. We look forward to hearing your thoughts, interests, and concerns. The county will also be updating our website for stakeholders to stay up to date on the process at this link.
The county has formed an ADHOC Committee and will post scheduled meetings on the website for all interested to attend (including limited in-person attendance, per current COVID-19 guidelines). The second meeting is scheduled for Monday August 2 at 4 p.m. The purpose of the ADHOC Committee is to educate the local community on the benefits of pursuing the SBCCP and provide a means for members of the community to take part in the planning process and development of the SBCCP plan. The county will be appointing member representatives from the public to serve on the ADHOC Committee. The public member representees’ would be required to attend four ADHOC meetings per year, help be a conduit of information to the public at large, help represent interests and concerns of stakeholders, and participate in additional planning development. For anyone interested please contact Arielle Goodspeed, contact information provided below, and attend the next ADHOC meeting in August to be appointed.
For more information, please contact Arielle Goodspeed, Senior Planner, San Benito County Resource Management Agency, [email protected] / 831- 902-2547.