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Ben Lomond Wallflower
Ben Lomond Wallflower

Mount Hermon June Beetle
Mount Hermon June Beetle

Silverleaf Manzanita
Silverleaf Manzanita

Band-winged Grasshopper
Band-winged Grasshopper

Ben Lomond Spineflower
Ben Lomond Spineflower

Ben Lomond buckwheat
Ben Lomond buckwheat
Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank

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November 1, 2011

Fish and Game's OK may ease building permit process in Zayante Sandhills


SCOTTS VALLEY -- Getting permits to build in environmentally sensitive habitat just got a little bit easier for thousands of residents, thanks to a new conservation plan that allows landowners to sidestep the agency previously tasked with issuing the necessary permits.

In August, both Santa Cruz County and Scotts Valley officials approved a so-called "interim habitat conservation plan," in which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would issue incidental take permits to those entities rather than individual homeowners. That allows either the city or county to issue the necessary permits for the construction of small projects in the environmentally sensitive Zayante Sandhills area.

Tuesday, after a decade of talks, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials announced its own approval of the plan, which goes into effect immediately, at least in theory. In practice, Scotts Valley Mayor Dene Bustichi said, "it's going to take a while for the local agencies to catch up on procedure and move that process along."

The plan covers nearly 1,700 acres in Scotts Valley and unincorporated areas such as Ben Lomond, Felton and Mount Hermon, where parcels range in size from 3.2 acres to 373 acres.

Lois Grunwald, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, said that land includes a "substantial amount of existing development," including roads and common areas, and that only 139 of those acres are allowed to be developed under the plan. It aims to protect the habitat of the Mount Hermon June beetle, Ben Lomond spineflower and other species. A complete list with descriptions can be viewed at www.zayantesandhills.com.

The plan calls for landowners to develop a habitat conservation plan, which should describe what measures will be taken to protect the land. And as part of the deal, landowners will be required to purchase credits through land banks and take various protective measures, including halting construction at times of the year when the endangered species are most active and more likely to be harmed.

An example of an approved land bank is the recently created Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank. Landowners will purchase credits from that bank, and those funds will be used to preserve key parcels of sandhill habitat.

Doug Cooper, deputy assistant field supervisor with the agency, estimated the agency has issued up to 10 small-scale take permits for the last five or so years. The plan approved Tuesday will allow greater local control will expedite the process for private landowners -- who previously had to wait for months before the agency would issue a take permit -- but not at the expense of conservation efforts, he said.

"This will help the city and help the process of the Town Center, but most of all, it's going to help the homeowner who's looking to do an addition to their home," Bustichi said, and added that many homeowners probably abandoned any ideas for additions to their homes after discovering how long it would take to obtain the permits.

Site Assessment Qualified Biologists:

Entomological Consulting Services, Ltd.
104 Mountain View Court
Pleasant Hill, CA 94523-2188
Richard A. Arnold, Ph.D.
Phone: 925-825-3784

Jodi M. McGraw, Ph.D.
Population and Community Ecologist
PO Box 883
Boulder Creek, CA 95006
Phone: (831) 338-1990

More Information:

  • How To Permit Projects in the Sandhills

  • Do you Live in the Sandhills? (Service Area)

  • Submit your property information

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