Sonoma County Agricultural Preservation and Open Space District

DRAFT Mitigation Policy

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District Board of Directors to Consider DRAFT Mitigation Policy

Since its formation, the District has received proposals for mitigation-related activities or projects on District-held conservation easements and District-owned properties. The District’s conservation easements do not always explicitly permit or prohibit mitigation-related uses, and mitigation-related project proposals for District-owned land are not always clearly consistent with the District’s enabling legislation, guidance documents, long-term fiscal stability, or previous commitments. Thus, there is a need for Board guidance on this issue.

The proposed Mitigation Policy has been developed for use by District staff and the General Manager in the evaluation of environmental mitigation-related proposals for District-protected lands, including conservation easements and District-owned properties. The Mitigation Policy includes a summary of the District and its land conservation work, a discussion of the District’s role with respect to environmental mitigation, and the types of environmental mitigation proposals received by the District and the process for evaluating them.

The Mitigation Policy was developed after several years of discussions with over 50 individuals and organizations representing various public agencies, non-governmental organizations, citizen groups, private business, and other relevant sectors of the community.

The District’s Board of Directors will consider the draft Mitigation Policy at their July 18, 2017 meeting. Board approval of this Mitigation Policy, by resolution, would result in the delegation of authority to the General Manager for approval or rejection of mitigation-related proposals, consistent with the criteria set forth in the Mitigation Policy.

Please direct questions or comments on the draft Mitigation Policy to Stewardship Program Manager Sheri Emerson, at 707-565-7358 or sheri.emerson@sonoma-county.org.

Background

A project or action which results in an adverse impact to the environment may be required to complete compensatory mitigation, pursuant to local, state, or federal law. The mitigation activity (habitat preservation or restoration, payment of an in-lieu fee, or other action) is intended to compensate for the adverse impact.

The District is not a land use approval entity or regulatory agency, and thus does not set mitigation ratios or issue regulatory permits for projects that impact habitat. The District’s mission is focused on land conservation, through the permanent protection of land for future generations. Yet, environmental mitigation is a tool that may be utilized in the implementation of the District’s land conservation priorities, to enhance and restore habitats on District-held conservation easements or fee title properties, or to acquire conservation easements over additional land.

It is important to note that the Mitigation Policy does not change the process for review of permitted use requests for District-held conservation easements. Use requests will continue to be reviewed consistent with the direction provided within the Board-adopted Stewardship Manual, except that in cases where an easement is silent, District staff will also consult the criteria within this Mitigation Policy. The Mitigation Policy does, however, present a set of four criteria to guide District staff in the evaluation of other environmental mitigation project proposals.