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Regional Conservation Investment Strategies & Mitigation Credit Agreements


  • California



California Regional Conservation Investment Strategies

In California, infrastructure, habitat, and agriculture are often competing for the same scarce land and resources. While infrastructure agencies and local governments are building massive flood control and transportation projects, they are also working to create net benefit for species and water supplies while also satisfying mitigation needs.

In 2016, motivated by expanding infrastructure development and lengthening permitting timelines, the California legislature created Regional Conservation Investment Strategies as a way to synchronize regional mitigation and conservation priorities and actions, with an eye towards streamlining permitting. An RCIS is a voluntary plan that identifies habitat needs and priority conservation areas within a region. Once an RCIS is approved, Mitigation Credit Agreements (MCAs) can be developed and approved as advance crediting mechanisms that define robust and transparent methods to assess and quantify habitat improvements, and financial and legal requirements needed to ensure long-term conservation success.

EI has worked closely with partners across California to advance this critical work.

Kaweah Subbasin RCIS

EI serves as a core member of the Kaweah Subbasin RCIS, which advances an innovative approach for addressing land use and groundwater management under the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Over the next two decades, major agricultural regions of California will transition to sustainable use of groundwater, as mandated by SGMA. Balancing groundwater demand and supply will require shifting to less water-intensive agriculture and, in some cases, taking land out of production. This RCIS complements the groundwater sustainability plans in the Kaweah Subbasin to create a regionally-coordinated approach to integrated landscape management that supports the local agricultural economy and important wildlife habitat, while sustainably managing water supplies into the future. 

San Joaquin Basin RCIS

EI, along with our partners at ESA, is leading to development of the San Joaquin Basin RCIS, sponsored by Reclamation District 2092. EI is also leading Steering Committee and other stakeholder input into the plan. Extensive agricultural development in the San Joaquin Valley has dramatically reduced habitat connectivity, quantity, and quality. The goal of this proposed RCIS is to develop a broadly supported conservation strategy to address these challenges.

Additionally, the San Joaquin region is facing threats from over-drafted groundwater aquifers, more frequent water supply shortages, and increased flood risk due to climatic changes. An RCIS is needed to ensure that future investments in flood and water management in the San Joaquin Basin are designed to advance, rather than hinder, habitat and ecosystem objectives. 

Mid-Sacramento Valley RCIS

EI supported on one of California's first RCIS's, the Mid-Sacramento Valley RCIS, approved in December 2020. Sponsored by the Mid & Upper Sacramento Regional Flood Management Plan Group, this plan focuses on conservation strategies that improve habitat for species such as Swainson’s hawks and Giant garter snakes while maintaining agricultural productivity in the region and enabling faster approvals of flood safety projects.

Southport MCA

EI was part of the project team for the first pilot Mitigation Credit Agreement led by the West Sacramento Area Flood Control Agency. This MCA was drafted for the Southport Levee Improvement Project, under the Yolo RCIS. The project restored natural hydrologic and geomorphic processes to a mostly urbanized section of the Sacramento River, creating 120 acres of valuable floodplain habitat to support seasonally inundated wetlands, riparian habitat, and shaded riverine aquatic habitat. The intent was to use the MCA to provide advance mitigation for planned future projects under the West Sacramento Levee Improvement Program, a comprehensive series of projects designed to achieve the flood risk-reduction goals identified by the City of West Sacramento.

Additional Projects

Nkuringo, Uganda

USAID Measuring Impact

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Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange

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Colorado Delta Conservation Arenitas Paisaje

Colorado Delta Conservation Funding Framework

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Sage Grouse Birds

Nevada Conservation Credit System

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Lake Tahoe

Lake Clarity Crediting Program For Lake Tahoe

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