Simplified Permitting to Accelerate Restoration

California’s rivers, streams and the creatures that depend on them are in trouble. Pollution, degraded habitat, and dwindling riverside forests have caused native fish and bird populations to plummet – some to near extinction. Many landowners and restoration advocates across the state want to help, but regulatory approval of environmental restoration projects can be slow, complex and expensive. Sustainable Conservation works with state and federal agencies in California to simplify the permitting process, while maintaining strict environmental standards, so more restoration can be done now, not years from now, to help our wildlife and communities thrive.

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The Problem

Our vibrant landscapes, clean water resources, and iconic species are losing ground in California.

The Potential

Imperiled plants and animals come back from the brink, and we protect the environment in a way that balances human and habitat needs for generations to come.

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Sediment can cloud waterways and impact habitat for fish and wildlife. Clean, cool water helps many species of fish and aquatic creatures thrive.

Making Restoration Easier

Sustainable Conservation helps these restoration champions become part of the solution by working with state and federal agencies to ease one of the major obstacles to getting beneficial restoration done: permitting.

Developing simplified permits helps restoration advocates move forward to restore streams, rebuild habitat and reduce soil erosion to boost clean water and wildlife without sacrificing critical environmental protections.

California has ambitious plans to restore a lot of our lands, and these permits help get more beneficial projects done, faster, while keeping available funding focused on getting projects built. We remain a go-to resource for resource-agency staff and individual project proponents, and our team works across the state to make sure that once permits are in place, people are empowered to use them and keep the conservation momentum going.

Healthy, revitalized rivers and other waterways improve water quality and supply so people, farms and wildlife have the water they need to thrive. As we face ever more extreme climate changes and environmental challenges, each effort to restore and revitalize waterway habitat adds up to a meaningful win for the entire state.

Current Work

We’re working with federal and state agencies to develop a variety of statewide permits so more types of restoration can revitalize our degraded landscapes, habitat and wildlife populations.

NOAA Expedited Permitting for Central Valley & Delta Restoration

Improving aquatic, floodplain and streamside habitat is long overdue in California’s Central Valley – agricultural production and development have changed the landscape significantly, and restoration projects in this region can add up to big wins for water quality, quantity and species’ habitat. To speed this process, we developed a simplified permit with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for critical habitat restoration projects in the Central Valley, through the Sacramento and San Joaquin River watersheds and Delta. The permit was signed in August 2018.

Statewide Tools to Accelerate Aquatic Habitat Restoration Permitting

Sustainable Conservation worked in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NOAA Restoration Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the State Water Resources Control Board, with input from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, to develop two statewide simplified and coordinated authorizations for a common set of environmentally beneficial aquatic and riparian restoration project types, including those with multiple benefits. 

These new authorizations, completed in August 2022, were designed to complement existing NOAA Restoration Center and California Coastal Commission programmatic authorizations (“Biological Opinions” and “Consistency Determinations”) to promote a more efficient and cost-effective process for both project proponents and agencies.

The Habitat and Restoration Enhancement Act

First-of-its-kind legislation enacted in 2015, the Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act expedites the permit process with the California Department of Fish & Wildlife for small-scale, voluntary projects that improve rural habitats, urban watersheds and coastal water quality.



Serving as a Resource to Accelerate Restoration

Accelerating the pace of habitat restoration in California means making sure everyone knows that these advance approvals are available for their beneficial projects and for their communities. We’re hard at work every day reaching out to project applicants and proponents, from other NGOs to land trusts and grant makers. We provide individual application assistance as well as technical assistance to organizations and groups seeking to learn more about how they can make use of available permit processes.