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Ben Lomond Wallflower
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Mount Hermon June Beetle

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Band-winged Grasshopper
Band-winged Grasshopper

Ben Lomond Spineflower
Ben Lomond Spineflower

Ben Lomond buckwheat
Ben Lomond buckwheat
Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank

January 16, 2008 (Front Page Article)

Sandhills conservation bank gets county approval

Sentinel Staff Writer

SANTA CRUZ -- The Santa Cruz kangaroo rat, its plant and animal neighbors and some property owners in the county could be co-existing a bit more harmoniously in the foreseeable future.
The Board of Supervisors approved an agreement Tuesday that will allow a company to set aside land that will preserve unique habitat in Santa Cruz County known as the Zayante Sandhills while enabling homeowners to more easily navigate permit hurdles.
That company, PCO LLC, will manage a Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank, which will enable people who own land that is part of that habitat to, for a price, more easily add on to or remodel their homes in areas where endangered and rare species of plants and animals live.
Under the agreement approved Tuesday, the conservation bank would manage about 23 acres of sandhills habitat in Ben Lomond. It will sell credits that will count as mitigation when property owners in those areas want to remodel or add on to their homes.
"This is really a huge step toward restoring and protecting the sandhills habitat," Supervisor Mark Stone said.
Homeowners in the sandhills who want to build or remodel a home could buy credits from the conservation bank -- based on the size square footage of the project -- to offset any disturbed habitat that may result from the construction. That would enable those owners to obtain county permits to build or remodel with less red tape.
That would satisfy the county's sensitive habitat ordinance and approval is pending on the federal level to allow the credit system to help property owners meet Endangered Species Act requirements under the plan.
The credits are sold at $7.50 per square foot of habitat, according to a county staff report. So, a home addition of 500 square feet would cost $3,750 worth of credits, according to a county staff report.
Previously homeowners had to develop individual plans on their land to satisfy federal requirements, which result in fragmented, piecemeal protections as well as bureaucratic headaches for the residents.
An effort to provide for sandhills preservation while easing the regulatory burden on homeowners has been years in the making.
"This is the most significant hurdle," the land bank's consultant Jeff Ringold said of the supervisors' action. "This is what allows the conservation bank to operate in Santa Cruz County."

The plan approved Tuesday is aimed at homeowners who live on 1.5 acres of land or less and projects that would disturb less than 15,000 square feet of ground.
Homeowner hurdles aside, the agreement helps protect a habitat that is unique to Santa Cruz County. It is generally found in the areas around Felton, Zayante and Scotts Valley. The sandy soils are home to unique animal species such as the Mount Hermon june beetle and the Zayante band-winged grasshopper as well as plants such as the Ben Lomond spineflower, the Ben Lomond buckwheat and the Santa Cruz wallflower.
"It preserves quite possible the rarest habitat in the continental United States," Ringold said. "They are a remarkable bastion of biodiversity. They tell the story of the geologic origins of this area in a way no place else can."
Contact Brian Seals at 706-3264 or bseals@santacruzsentinel.com.

kangaroo rat

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)

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