One California:


To aid waterways and wildlife before it’s too late
Photo of steelhead pair spawning in Pena Creek

Earlier this year, the United Nations delivered a sobering report card on how well we humans are caring for the nearly nine million plant and animal species estimated to live on Earth. Our grade? A resounding F.

While the dismal appraisal of our environmental performance over the last century isn’t surprising, the alarm it rings is undeniable. Experts find that up to one million types of plants and animals across the globe are on the verge of extinction. Species loss, both on land and in the oceans, is happening 100 times faster than in the past. Our natural world is in the worst shape it’s ever been.

People are largely responsible for the breakneck pace of this destruction, but we also hold the power to turn things around. We have no other option but to reverse this trajectory. Our plant and wildlife neighbors aren’t the only ones in serious peril; their loss directly impacts world economies, our food and water security, and human health. The good news is that it’s not too late to change course, but we must work together, and quickly, to avoid the worst-case scenarios.

That’s why Sustainable Conservation has spent nearly two decades making it easier for California landowners – private and public alike – to restore degraded waterways around the state to boost clean water and habitat, and help bring struggling species back from the brink.

Thank you for being part of this renewal with us. Because of your support, implementing restoration projects in California to benefit clean water, fish, and wildlife is faster, less expensive, and easier than ever.

Folks wanting to take on habitat restoration projects have historically had to obtain permits from many different agencies using the same process as development projects (say, for a luxury hotel or condo complex). Approval is complex, costly, and can take years. The daunting process can cause some to abandon their plans, or never even consider conservation activities in the first place – a big deal in the face of time-sensitive habitat loss, species decline, and our warming climate.

Our programmatic permitting simplifies the process, and cuts time and cost for both agencies and project proponents, while keeping necessary environmental protections in place. Sustainable Conservation and our legislative and agency partners have already developed simplified permitting to support many critical, non-size-limited restoration projects authorized through the National Marine Fisheries Service and California Coastal Commission, as well as small-scale projects through the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

We’re currently working with state and federal agencies to develop new permits to boost landscape-level restoration statewide, as well as other policy and regulatory incentives to support critical conservation projects before it’s too late.

Together, we can heed the U.N.’s wake-up call. Together, we can keep California a thriving home for people, flora, and fauna.

Speeding Statewide Fish and Wildlife Recovery
fish in a stream

River restoration round-up! Learn more about rest stops for salmon, groundwater recharge, and a unique application of four-legged engineering – all conservation efforts by Californians made possible in part by Sustainable Conservation’s simplified permitting efforts. Featuring 2018 projects by the Western Shasta Resource Conservation District, Scott River Watershed Council, and Sanctuary Forest.

San Francisco Chronicle Letter to the Editor
adult Coho salmon

Over the last century, we’ve destroyed 90% of the state’s streamside forests and aquatic habitats. Bad news for waterways, fish, and people. There’s hope, though. Read our response.

2018 progress your support made possible

You helped bring habitat-healing and fish-saving projects to life. In 2018, 25 restoration projects were approved through the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement (HRE) Act, the programmatic permitting mechanism we developed with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. Here’s a sampling:

Quiota Creek before and after

Before (left), a concrete stream crossing constricts water flow, and after (right), a new pedestrian bridge grants endangered fish easy passage to spawning and rearing habitat. Photos courtesy of the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board (COMB) Fisheries Division.

Bridge by bridge, the Cachuma Operations and Maintenance Board (COMB) works to revive endangered Southern California steelhead in Santa Barbara County’s Quiota Creek. COMB employs the HRE Act to advance the replacement of small culverts that carry water under low-flow, concrete stream crossings with spacious pedestrian bridges that afford more room for fish passage. These improvements provide adult and juvenile steelhead with access to precious spawning and rearing habitat – true lifelines to a species in trouble.

To date, the HRE Act has helped COMB more efficiently transform four compromised crossings on Quiota Creek (2018’s effort pictured above). The new bridges also support local wildlife, including California red-legged frogs and Western pond turtles, in moving freely within a connected environment; help keep local roads from flooding; and provide safer passage for firefighting teams into Los Padres National Forest.

Miners Creek before and after

Before (left), during beaver dam analogue (BDA) installation, and after (right), water flowing across the entire floodplain. Photos courtesy of the Scott River Watershed Council.

Thanks in part to the HRE Act, engineering borrowed from beavers is catching on as a technique to help recover dwindling fish populations and replenish aquifers. Near the California-Oregon border, the Scott River Watershed Council is pioneering the use of low-cost post-and-fiber lattice structures – known as “beaver dam analogues,” or BDAs – in the Golden State to redirect, slow down, and pool water in ways that support local coho and groundwater reserves. In 2018, they built a BDA on Miners Creek in Siskiyou County, part of a series in the watershed.

Patterson Creek before and after

Before (left), California Conservation Corps members gather at the project site, and after (right), water pooling in fish-friendly habitat behind constructed log jams. Photos courtesy of the Scott River Watershed Council.

Patterson Creek is a cold-water steelhead and coho spawning and rearing tributary of the Scott River in Siskiyou County. With the help of the HRE Act, the Scott River Watershed Council partnered with the California Conservation Corps to create habitat for these imperiled fish to raise their young. While the photos above may not look like much, the placement of large pieces of wood is strategic: water fills in behind the constructed log jams, forming havens where fish can achieve lifecycle milestones to avoid extinction. Soon after this special log puzzle was put in place in 2018, coho and steelhead were found rearing in the new pools.

You helped us move closer to our goal of simplifying all federal and state permits needed to accelerate wildlife-saving restoration projects across the state. In August 2018, our partnership with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) resulted in a new simplified permit that covers high priority restoration activities in the Central Valley and Bay-Delta – two areas of our Golden State desperately in need of habitat revival and water quality improvements. This mechanism eliminates the need to write a brand-new permit for each project. Now, many different types of common restoration projects that will benefit the endangered species NMFS is charged with protecting can move forward swiftly without sacrificing any environmental protections.

This arrangement pairs beautifully with simplified permitting coverage for the entire coast that we developed with both NMFS and the California Coastal Commission.

Programmatic permits don’t just save time and money; they also foster stronger relationships between the people on the ground getting restoration done and agencies mandated with caring for our species and waterways. Advocates can work closely with agency staff on higher-quality project design and swift approvals, and staffers can review applications more quickly. Most importantly, more of the funding that’s available for restoration projects can go directly to construction, rather than a lengthy permitting process.

Celebrating historic milestones from each of Sustainable Conservation’s programs as we reflect on a quarter century of uniting people for conservation progress.

Photo of simplified permitting program for restoration efforts Establish and replicate simplified permitting program for conservation efforts in 12 California counties before transitioning to a statewide approach to accelerate habitat restoration and water quality improvement projects throughout California.
Photo of fish in water The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issues a simplified permit for restoration for the Central Coast, completing the first piece of the puzzle for simplified permitting with NMFS in California.
Groundwater Recharge Assesment Tool (GRAT) Governor Brown signs our Habitat Restoration and Enhancement (HRE) Act into law. The HRE Act expedites the permit process with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife across the entire state for small-scale, voluntary projects that improve rural habitats, urban watersheds, and coastal water quality.
Groundwater Recharge Assesment Tool (GRAT) Develop simplified restoration permitting for the rest of the California coast with the National Marine Fisheries Service and the California Coastal Commission.
Groundwater Recharge Assesment Tool (GRAT) Our Accelerating Restoration team’s work results in the National Marine Fisheries Service issuing a “pre-developed” permit for the entire Central Valley, completing simplified permitting with this agency for all of California.