The U.S.D.A. Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), the Resource Conservation District of Santa Cruz County (RCD), and our environmental non-profit partner Sustainable Conservation have developed a countywide permit coordination program for environmentally beneficial projects on private lands in Santa Cruz County titled the “Partners in Restoration Permit Coordination Program” (Permit Coordination).
The links between streambank erosion, water quality, and fish and wildlife habitat in Santa Cruz County watersheds are a concern for agricultural, conservation, and regulatory interests. In particular, creeks and streams in Santa Cruz County provide critical habitat for the federally protected steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss irideus) and coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Riparian vegetation along many of these streams also serves as important migration corridors and habitat for other state and federally protected species such as the California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii). The quality of these habitats has been degraded largely through alterations in streambed morphology associated with implementation of flood control measures, removal of riparian vegetation, and subsequent accelerated erosion and sedimentation that further degrade these sensitive habitats.
Fortunately, farmers, ranchers, and rural landowners are increasingly interested in implementing conservation practices to reduce soil erosion, improve water quality, and enhance habitat on their lands. As the primary stewards of the land, they are very much engaged in protecting its health. They also depend on this land for their livelihoods and constantly seek ways to improve its value and productivity. Unfortunately, these farmers face a major obstacle when contemplating the introduction of conservation practices into their management plans: the time, cost, and complexity of regulatory review.