The focus of this program is the preservation and enhancement of marshes in selected areas of the Central Valley through placement of conservation easements. Preferences for easement acceptance are guided by the implementation plan of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture which prioritizes wetland areas according to their historical use by waterfowl and their potential for restoration if degraded.
How the program works
The landowner offers to sell to the Department of Fish and Game the development and farming rights to wetland property in the form of a permanent conservation easement. This easement restricts the potential for developing or farming on the property but leaves ownership in the hands of the original landowner. If the property has wetland habitat characteristics of interest to the CDFG, the landowner and the Department, through staff of its Wildlife Conservation Board, settle on a price based on an independent appraisal of the easement's fair market value. The land-owner receives a one-time lump sum payment for the easement, which runs in perpetuity.
The terms and conditions of the easement agreement can permit full and exclusive use of the property by the landowner, with the exception of uses that would damage waterfowl habitat values. They also include a management plan, developed by the landowner and CDFG biologists, designed to ensure that the land sustains the characteristics of a productive wetland.
Although the primary focus of the program is the preservation of natural habitat, some areas of the property may be devoted to unharvested grain crops or waterfowl "food plots." In addition, the agreement may allow for the landowner to initiate a cancellation process should waterfowl hunting be prohibited by state or federal mandate for a period of three consecutive years. Should water rights or permits be needed to carry out the activities outlined in the management plan, obtaining these is the responsibility of the landowner.
The program is currently targeting the American Basin-primarily Yuba, Placer, and Sutter counties-and easement proposals are accepted on an ongoing basis. Financial backing for the program will vary from year to year and there is no guaranteed long-term funding source. However, as one of the programs designated for implementing the goals of the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture, it has received consistent support from funding agencies. For more information, contact the Department of Fish and Game at (916) 653-1728 or the Wildlife Conservation Board at (916) 445-1093.