The Yolo Habitat Conservancy is the County agency charged specifically with protection of native species and their habitats, as well as management of environmental permits for development in the County and its cities. Toward that end, the Conservancy spent several years developing a combined federal Habitat Conservation Plan and state-level Natural Community Conservation Plan (Yolo HCP/NCCP), which took effect in January.
Most important to Yolo Audubon are its commitments to habitat protection. These include the conservation of over 16,000 acres of land to meet mitigation obligations, mainly Swainson’s Hawk foraging habitat on farmland. Beyond that, the Conservancy has committed to establish voluntary conservation easements, not associated with mitigation, on more than 8,200 acres of various habitats, including stream corridors, oak woodland, and wetlands. Another 8,000 acres that are already partly protected—e.g., gravel mining lands along Cache Creek– will get full legal protection and habitat enhancements. Lands so committed will become part of a carefully designed habitat reserve system.
Progress has been good. Over 2,000 acres of Swainson’s Hawk foraging habitat have been protected with easements. The easement program is expanding to include Burrowing Owl, White-tailed Kite, Tricolored Blackbird, Bank Swallow, and – optimistically – Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Bell’s Vireo.
Clearly, more acreage is needed, and the Conservancy is energetically seeking properties to enroll. Landowners with actively cultivated farmland, rangeland, or natural lands are encouraged to apply. The Conservancy will accept applications for properties that provide habitat for any of twelve covered species, including the birds named above. Our readers will not be surprised that the Conservancy is prioritizing acquisition of conservation easements on farm properties that support Burrowing Owls.
For information and application forms, go to the Yolo Habitat Conservancy website. Applications can be submitted at any time. This is a fine opportunity for Yolo Audubon members.
Michael Perrone, Conservation Chair, Yolo Audubon