Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS)

Santa Cruz County is a global biodiversity hot spot known and valued for its globally rare natural communities such as old-growth redwood forests, Santa Cruz sandhills, karst caves, coastal prairie grasslands, and maritime chaparral; as well as its diverse and endemic plant and animal species. These unique and diverse biological systems are essential to conservation of biodiversity, have critical cultural importance, and provide a wealth of goods and services that support our quality of life (including crop pollination, water infiltration, flood protection, carbon sequestration, climate change adaptation, working lands production, recreation and tourism. Santa Cruz County’s natural capital provides at least $800 million to $2.2 billion in benefits to people and the local economy each year (Schmidt et al. 2015).

Santa Cruz County has been the focal point of many watershed and conservation planning efforts to protect and restore biological systems and recover rare species while safeguarding the region’s other conservation values, including working lands and water resources, while allowing orderly development and development and maintenance of essential public infrastructure.

Together with the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, the RCD led the development of the Santa Cruz County Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) through a collaborative planning process from 2020-2022. The RCIS leverages the wealth of local knowledge and conservation planning into a comprehensive regional strategy to protect Santa Cruz County’s unique biodiversity and the ecological communities that support it and promote resilience to foreseeable pressures and stressors. Administered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), the RCIS Program was established to encourage voluntary, non-regulatory regional planning specifically to direct mitigation funds to the highest, best conservation actions. The RCIS Program uses a science-based approach to identify conservation and enhancement opportunities that, if implemented, will help California's declining and vulnerable species by protecting, creating, restoring, and reconnecting habitat and may contribute to species recovery and adaptation to climate change and resiliency. The focus of the RCIS is on conservation of biodiversity while added benefits of the RCIS are conservation of ecosystem services such as recreation, wildfire risk reduction, or flood risk reduction. And while the RCIS is a program of the CDFW, the RCIS addresses other resource agency needs, making the RCIS more broadly applicable as a roadmap for guiding conservation investment within our county.

The RCIS will be implemented by many agencies, organizations, and individuals, through several mechanisms including mitigation, government grants and other public funds, private philanthropy, and tax incentives. Monitoring will be conducted to evaluate achievement of the goals and objectives of the RCIS, which will be updated based on new science and changed conditions in 10 years.

CDFW approved the Santa Cruz County RCIS in April 2023.

The Final Santa Cruz County RCIS is available here.

A one-page summary handout is available here.

For more information visit:

Conservation benefit: Facilitate regional planning to help guide conservation investments (and generate new conservation investments) to the highest conservation actions in the County.

Cal Trans
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
California State Parks
Land Trust of Santa Cruz County
Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission
US Fish and Wildlife Service

Wildlife Conservation Board

RCD Contact: Lisa Lurie

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