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SECTION II:  POTENTIAL STRATEGIES
Group A. STRATEGIES TO HELP MAINTAIN FARMING

Strategy A4: Reduce conflict between agriculture and nearby habitat land
Strategy A4.2:  Provide take coverage for neighboring lands

DESCRIPTION

Farmers are concerned that protected species could migrate from restored habitat areas onto farmland and result in liability under species protection laws.  Farmers would like protection from liability under state and federal endangered species laws for their otherwise lawful operations, should populations of listed threatened and endangered species enter their property as a result of habitat restoration.  This type of protection is sometimes called neighboring landowner protection.

The California Endangered Species Act provides limited protection for "accidental take," which could occur in the course of an otherwise lawful, routine, and ongoing farming or ranching activity.  This strategy does not include a discussion of accidental take issues.

RELATED PROGRAMS AND POLICIES

A conservation plan approved under the federal Endangered Species Act or state Natural Community Conservation Planning Act can include provisions through which landowners neighboring habitat preserves established under the plan could obtain take authorization.  The San Joaquin County Multi-Species Habitat Conservation and Open Space Plan provides for "neighboring land protections" to assure neighboring landowners that their routine and ongoing agricultural activities on their lands will not be affected by protected species that become established on their land.  Protections extend one-half mile out from the habitat preserve border, and provide coverage under both the federal and state endangered species acts. 

Landowners who seek such protection must sign a Certificate of Inclusion.  The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan has a similar provision, providing incidental take coverage under a voluntary program to active farmlands within a one-mile radius of the reserve area and covering three listed species:  California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and western pond turtle. 

Incidental take programs in ESA/NCCPA conservation plans typically identify eligibility requirements, including provisions for voluntary participation, timelines for applying for take coverage, the geographic scope of eligible lands, and the land uses eligible for take coverage.  In addition, they require a biological survey that identifies baseline conditions (e.g., the type, number, location, and condition of species and their habitat) for the purpose of identifying changes from the baseline as a result of conservation plan implementation.  The Santa Clara Valley Habitat Plan provides landowners the option of either allowing biologists with the implementing agency to survey their property and reimbursing the cost of the survey, or hiring a biologist on their own with the approval of the implementing entity.

ISSUES

Landowners would need to allow access to biologists for the purpose of gathering information regarding baseline and future conditions.  This requirement, along with the cost of surveys, could affect participation levels in a voluntary program.  The incidental take coverage program also should set forth how incidental take coverage issues will be addressed when land ownership is transferred.

Efforts to increase the abundance of protected fish species in the Delta, and elsewhere, raise concerns that those fish could be unintentionally drawn into irrigation water intakes.  No approved Habitat Conservation Plan provides neighboring land protection for take of fish that are drawn into water intakes.  Thus, the process and rules for determination of eligibility, geographic scope, and baseline survey requirements for such coverage have not been established, and would likely prove difficult.

OPPORTUNITIES AND POTENTIAL PARTNERS

  • Farm Bureaus of five Delta counties
  • California Farm Bureau Federation
  • Resource Conservation Districts
  • Delta Protection Commission, Delta Conservancy, Delta Stewardship Council, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, California Biodiversity Council
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service

 If you would like to provide feedback on this strategy, please click the following link: Agricultural Stewardship Strategy Feedback Form

ALS Workgroup: ALS Framework and Strategies: Section II:  Strategy A4.2 Provide Take Coverage for Neighboring Lands: 061014