California Wetlands Information System

Limited Developement Strategies



Landowners who wish to protect wetlands on their property but are constrained by the need to derive income from the land may consider a limited development strategy, opting for sensitive development on part of the property while leaving the more environmentally significant areas protected. In some cases, limited development may be the only feasible way to provide habitat protection on a property, particularly in regions where land values and development pressure are extremely high. In California, federal and state regulations make the prospects for developing in wetlands areas extremely daunting. At the same time, because of their importance to wildlife and water resources, wetlands are of great interest to land trusts and other conservation groups. An exploration of limited development options might reveal the best resolution of this situation. An arrangement is sometimes made, for example, in which the landowner offers to dedicate to a land trust a conservation easement on the wetland portion of the property, including perhaps a buffer area of surrounding uplands. In exchange, the land trust provides the analysis to delineate the developable land, simplifying the landowner's task of obtaining the necessary development approvals. Alternatively, a conservation organization might take on the role of real estate consultant and work with the landowner to compare various development options, ranging from construction at the highest allowable density to designs in which scaled-down or clustered developments are confined to smaller, less sensitive areas, for the sake of protecting habitat or open space. A limited development design may emerge as offering the greatest financial gain, because structures surrounded by permanent open space can be sold at relatively higher prices. Protecting land through the limited development approach can be a complex process, and not all land trusts are in a position to engage in it. If a local organization is unable to participate in such a project, it can usually direct the landowner to a group that is better qualified to do so. The Trust for Public Land and, in coastal areas, the State Coastal Conservancy have considerable experience with this technique. Contact information for these organizations is included below.

The Trust for Public Land The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national land trust that focuses on preserving land for open space and public recreation, with an emphasis on urban areas. It also provides training and technical assistance to other land trusts and private landowners, and can refer you to the land trust nearest you. Contact: The Trust for Public Land's Land Trust Program at (415) 495-4014.

The State Coastal Conservancy Either the agricultural program or the resource enhancement program at the Coastal Conservancy can provide technical assistance regarding wetland property on the coast or on property that affects coastal wetlands. The Conservancy's nonprofit assistance program can also refer you to a local land trust. Contact: The State Coastal Conservancy at (510) 286-1015.


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