There is simply not enough land in California. Agricultural production, transportation needs, and housing and urban growth all demand land that is also needed to support the diverse species and ecosystems of the region. Critical habitat for iconic western species has been depleted, and the demand for land is only expected to increase in the coming years. The state estimates that at least 600,000 acres of high quality habitat will need to be restored and conserved in the coming decades.
With 70 percent of the land in the Central Valley under private ownership, effective conservation for species must include programs compatible with working lands. The Central Valley Habitat Exchange (Exchange) creates this compatibility by allowing habitat to be traded as a commodity, just like crops. By measuring the quality of habitat at a particular site, a credit value is assigned that willing landowners can sell to private and public investors seeking habitat for mitigation requirements or restoration mandates, in addition to private developers with standalone mitigation needs. Through the Exchange, farmers and ranchers will be paid to “grow” habitat for at-risk wildlife, such as flooded fields for salmon, riparian forest for Swainson’s hawk, and wetland habitat for giant garter snakes.