By Charles Delgado & Christa Harader
Last year, we celebrated the 5-year anniversary of the Habitat and Restoration Enhancement Act (HREA.) This year, we’re thrilled to announce that Governor Newsom signed SB 716 (McGuire) to extend HREA until 2027!
This bill builds on the progress made when Sustainable Conservation sponsored AB 2193 (Gordon) in 2014 to establish HREA in service of revitalizing critical habitat for California fish and wildlife. Sustainable Conservation worked closely with Senator Mike McGuire throughout the legislative session to pass this important bill, and to secure bipartisan support.
What is HREA?
Sponsored by Sustainable Conservation and administered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), HREA provides a novel approach to permitting small-scale (up to 5 acres), environmentally beneficial habitat restoration projects in California. HREA created an expedited 30-to-60-day approval process – and put these projects on a separate permitting track from development projects. This track enables better collaboration between agencies and applicants to meet common restoration goals, including positioning California to better meet the time-sensitive challenges of habitat loss, species decline, and our warming climate. HREA is also coordinated with another key agency process at the State Water Boards.
Check out our blog coverage of these three amazing HREA projects on Rancheria Creek, French Creek, and Dennet Dam!
This means restorationists who want to revitalize streams, remove barriers to fish passage, restore wetlands, or replenish natural water supplies can partner with CDFW to get their projects approved more quickly and efficiently – without sacrificing any environmental protections. More of the project funding can go toward construction, and agency staffers can save administrative time so they can provide more technical assistance to applicants.
Restoring California’s Future
The successful passage of this bill speaks to the great restoration work completed because of HREA (over 100 projects and counting), and the commitment of the Governor’s Administration to the value of streamlining permits for environmentally beneficial projects.
HREA is one part of the overall strategy memorialized in the California Natural Resources Agency’s Cutting Green Tape Initiative, focused on improving interagency coordination, partnerships, and agency processes and policies to allow ecological restoration and stewardship to occur more quickly, simply, and cost-effectively.
We thank CDFW for their partnership with Sustainable Conservation and project proponents to help create an efficient pathway to permit these important restoration projects in California. And, we applaud Senator McGuire for his leadership in carrying this important legislation. We look forward to working with our legislative partners next year to keep the momentum going to enable projects that ensure a sustainable future for California’s natural resources.