It’s time to celebrate! On August 16, the California State Water Resources Control Board unanimously approved a statewide programmatic permit and programmatic environmental impact report for commonly implemented aquatic restoration projects. And, on August 31, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued its statewide programmatic biological opinion (PBO) for the same commonly implemented restoration projects covering 72 endangered and threatened species.
What do these two pieces of news mean? More restoration, at scale, more quickly in California! As we toast these extraordinary restoration milestones — our most comprehensive and ambitious to date — we’re also reflecting on our history. When we learned that landowners had to go to seven different government agencies to get permits for voluntary restoration projects, we developed our first Partners in Restoration program in the Elkhorn Slough Watershed. Partners in Restoration grew into 10 additional watersheds and counties along California’s coast, and eventually became our award-winning, statewide Accelerating Restoration program.
From county-by-county efforts to multi-agency statewide permits that activate holistic, watershed-level restoration, our work has grown tremendously in three decades. Hundreds of organizations and landowners have used the permits we’ve helped put in place to restore miles of critical riparian habitat, revitalize our rivers, protect iconic species, and reconnect our surface and groundwater resources.
What we learned from our earliest efforts forms the bedrock of our values and our theory of change: trusted partnerships, innovation, continuous learning, and perseverance are the only way to achieve our goals.
Thank you to our community for believing in and supporting this critical work!
We’re so grateful to every agency staff member, restorationist, environmental colleague, partner, and supporters like you who’ve helped make all pathways for restoration possible. And, we’re especially proud of our amazing Sustainable Conservation team for their years of hard work, perseverance, and long-term vision for a restored, resilient California.
A lot of people thought the statewide restoration permitting work could not be done, but perseverance, supportive funders, and dedicated work to build partnerships with agencies helped make it happen.”
The number of projects that could possibly use these authorizations is more than we’ve ever had before, and hearing about the projects that get implemented and how these authorizations help project proponents makes this work rewarding.”
I’m looking forward to seeing the cost and time savings realized each year by the new permits and authorizations, and I’m hoping other states will be inspired to use our model of collaboration to help realize their conservation goals.”
Restoring California is a team effort, and organizations like Environmental Science Associates (ESA) are critical in two ways: shaping the policy to enable more restoration in California, and designing the actual projects! We partnered with ESA to shepherd the State Water Resources Control Board permit and environmental impact report, and we’re deeply grateful for their partnership. We’re honored to spotlight Jill Sunahara and Chris Fitzer as they reflect on our collaboration and what the future holds.
Sustainable Conservation’s strong vision for accelerating the pace and scale of habitat restoration in California, and their multi-stakeholder, collaborative approach, has resulted in California’s most innovative and successful permitting programs to-date, and these permits will continue to enable habitat restoration projects for years to come.”
The authorizations developed under the collaborative leadership of Sustainable Conservation, which include robust design guidelines, and a suite of general and species protection measures, are a tremendous technical resource for project proponents, helping ensure projects are designed and implemented in ways that are scientifically sound, sustaining, and protective of all sensitive resources.”
The power of these statewide programmatic permits and authorizations is enormous. When we put restoration on a separate track from development, with critical environmental protections in place, landowners can restore native vegetation to streams, rebuild habitat, reduce soil erosion, and improve water quality, while saving time and money.
Restoring habitat helps plant and animal species thrive, facilitates recreation for people, protects communities from flooding, bolsters our water supplies, creates jobs, and helps weather climate uncertainty.
Sustainable Conservation looks forward to continuing this vital work with more partnerships, comprehensive outreach for restoration proponents, and systemic change to restore our state.
Collaboration for healthy streams, wildlife, and watersheds is a win for our environment and our communities. Thank you to all our partners for their perseverance and dedication to making these authorizations.
We’ve built an extraordinary statewide restoration effort over the past thirty years. Our secret? You! Your sustained support keeps us working on real solutions to California’s most pressing environmental problems. Your partnership has seen us through robust, multi-year efforts to accelerate the pace and scale of restoration in our state.
Join our California Conservationists — a like-minded community of environmentally concerned supporters — and receive exclusive membership benefits like special event invitations, programmatic updates, and more! Become a Partner with a monthly gift, or a Steward with a gift of $1,000 or more.
Thanks to your steady generosity, we’ve built foundational relationships within the restoration community to craft lasting pathways that save restorationists and agency staff time and money, and get more restoration done across California.
We can’t do it without you. Become a California Conservationist today!