2018 Grower Meeting

In order to keep the lines of communication open between the Conservancy and its tenant farmers, the Conservancy recently completed its 2018 meeting with growers. The key topics for the meeting included compliance with water quality regulations, Covered Species...

New appointments to the Conservancy’s Board of Directors

The County of Sutter has appointed Glenn Michael Johnston to the Conservancy’s Board of Directors. In the same action, Conservancy Board member Jeffrey Helm was re-appointed by Sutter County to renewed term on the Conservancy’s...

John Shirey was elected as new TNBC Board Chair

John Shirey was elected Board Chair of the Board of Directors of the Conservancy at the Board’s recent Annual Meeting of the Corporation. Shirey is a City of Sacramento appointee to the Conservancy’s Board and has served since April 2017. Shirey is the seventh Board...

Our Mission

The Conservancy acquires and manages land for the purpose of meeting the objectives of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan.

Our Vision

The Conservancy envisions implementing the NBHCP in a manner that successfully meets the Plan’s biological goals, makes efficient use of fee payer funding, and facilitates permit holder activities covered under the Plan over the long term.

Our Goal

The Conservancy will maintain itself as an effective organization, and will at all times be capable of serving as the Natomas Basin Habitat conservation Plan’s plan operator.

Our Objectives

  1. Apply principles of sound science in the creation and management of habitat reserves.
  2. Review and focus on the NBHCP long-term finance model to insure the Conservancy is financially capable of fully performing its plan operator responsibilities.
  3. Seek opportunities to help insure the long-term persistence of species covered under the NBHCP.


What does the Conservancy do?

Each and every day, the Conservancy provides sanctuary and refuge to species displaced by urbanization in the Natomas Basin. By acquiring land, converting or restoring it to habitat, and then managing that land in perpetuity, the Conservancy conducts “mitigation.” This is a process by which urban development impacts are offset via the acquisition, restoration, enhancement and perpetual management of habitat lands.

More formally, the authorizing documents which guide the Conservancy’s program of work note the Conservancy is the “plan operator” of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP) and the Metro Air Park Habitat Conservation Plan (MAPHCP). The purpose of the HCPs is “to promote biological conservation along with economic development and the continuation of agriculture within the Natomas Basin.”

How do I mitigate for an urban development project?

Implementation of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP) and Metro Air Park Habitat Conservation plan (MAPHCP) provides mitigation for urban development in the Natomas Basin by establishing a system of reserves composed of managed marsh, uplands habitat, and rice farms. Acceptable mitigation under the HCPs requires maintenance of a 0.5-to-1 mitigation ratio. That is, for each one acre of habitat disturbed, one-half acre of mitigation land must be provided for.

For details on specific project mitigation, please see the Conservancy’s project mitigation page.

Can I visit the Conservancy’s preserves?

The incidental take permits issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and California Department of Fish and Wildlife do not authorize or cover incidental take resulting from public use, access, or recreation on the Conservancy’s mitigation preserves. The permits in essence designate mitigation land solely as refuges and sanctuaries for “Covered Species” displaced by urban development and activity.

The public may view many of the preserves in Natomas from public roads. With a Conservancy “base map” in hand, viewing points from preserve land perimeters are available.

What are the species covered under the HCPs?

The Conservancy is charged with providing and managing habitat for 22 “Covered Species” as noted in the NBHCP and MAPHCP. These Covered Species are cataloged in a publication produced by the Conservancy, free and readily available on the Conservancy’s web site at

What are the various land uses under the NBHCP?

The HCPs provide for a general division of habitat types within the Conservancy’s system of reserves as follows: 25% managed marsh; 50% rice production; and, 25% upland habitat.

How can I connect with the Conservancy?


2150 River Plaza Drive
Suite 460
Sacramento, CA 95833

When is your next Board meeting?

With minor exception, the Conservancy’s Board of Directors meets on the first Wednesday of each month. Please check the Conservancy’s Board Meeting page for meeting notices and agendas.

More rain, please

(April 23, 2018) The results for the 2017 Biological Effectiveness Monitoring Program on Conservancy preserves are in. Here, a focus on the Swainson’s hawk.

In 2016, there were 43 successful nests and 63 fledged. In 2017, there were 49 successful nests, and 68 fledged. The upward trend is great, of course. But we want to know why.

We see cycles in the Swainson’s hawk favorite prey, microtus (meadow mice). And those show an ebb and flow of population variances.

But now, looking at the graphs, we are starting to see trends based on annual rainfall. I am not sure the academic biologists agree. But it appears that Swainson’s hawk numbers decline in drought years and rise in a wet years.

Maybe the answer is as simple as rain providing the essential resource for greater prey populations. More data is needed, and this will take time. Now, however, we’re watching this one closely.


(March 28, 2018)  Giant garters snake experts talk about the snake being “cryptic.” I looked up the word cryptic in the dictionary and the definition I found was: “mysterious and obscure.” I have also heard the experts talk about the snake being “shy.”

Whatever the case, the photos attached with this blog post were taken at the Conservancy’s flagship preserve today. You can see the large, angular rocks that the snake is partially concealed in.

We have found that Giant garter snakes love the hiding places provided by these rock pilings, which the Conservancy typically places adjacent to water so that this aquatic snake can easily move from aquatic to terrestrial environments while spending little energy.

We believe the snakes also like the warmth provided by these rocks on a sunny day like today. But the main attribute is, we suspect, that there are lots of hiding places for this cryptic animal!

Not a groundhog!

(March 23, 2018)  The attached photo was taken on March 23, 2018. It is the first Giant garter snake sighting Conservancy field crews have seen this year.

Of course, it helps that sunshine was prevalent and in the previous number of weeks, it has been cold and/or rainy.

For those of us on the staff, this marks a certain rite. It means that we move into gear as facilitating Giant garter snake activity and managing the marsh complexes accordingly. This is a very good sign!

Swainson’s hawk versus eager beaver

(March 7, 2018)  The HCPs require that the Conservancy plant potential nesting trees for Swainson’s hawk. The hope is that in the subsequent decade or two after planting, the trees will have enough stature to support a Swainson’s hawk nest.

We’ve gotten pretty good at planting and maintaining trees, even in poor soils and other not-so-great conditions. But time and time again, we are foiled by beavers, always busy, always felling trees we plant in and around Conservancy marsh complexes. The expense is one thing. But the time is the killer here. Years after planting and with years of care, just when a tree starts to approach maturity, it is taken down by an eager beaver.

Yesterday, Conservancy field crews found one of my favorite trees had been removed. A quick look at the attached photo leaves no doubt who the culprit was: an eager beaver. We thought that it was planted far enough away from water that it didn’t need protective fencing, like most trees have in such areas. But the beavers are relentless.

We will properly inform the Swainson’s hawks using Conservancy preserves that they will have to wait another decade or more for the replacement we’ll plant. 😉

Big Bird



(November 9, 2017)  This very large bird (see photo at right) was spotted on Conservancy mitigation land recently. Since being photographed, we’ve shopped the photo out to a number of experts for identification. We on the staff gave it a preliminary ID as a common black hawk (Buteogallus anthracinus). (see bottom photo)

However, Sacramento is not in the typical range of the Black hawk. Mexico and the American Southwest? Yes. But not all the way north to Sacramento. We thought it might be a Common black hawk way out of its range.

As it turns out, the experts we consulted came to a conclusion: the bird in the top photo is a pre-adult Golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). Assuming the Conservancy’s experts (in whom I have great confidence) accurately identified this animal, it is still an important find. Not a first by any means. But uncommon for sure.

It might be worth reading up on this raptor. It is described as having a wingspan of five feet 11 inches to seven feet eight inches. This is a very impressive bird.

We are pleased this predator has found the Conservancy’s preserves to be worthy of a stopover. Will it stay?

My guess is that it’s all about the food (prey availability) and whether the Natomas Basin is too urbanized for them to feel safe. We’ll keep trying to make this the best possible home for it should it choose Natomas!

Top 5 FAQ’s

An interview with John Roberts, Executive Director, The Natomas Basin Conservancy.

“What are the most frequently asked questions you get?” Click on the photo icon to view the top 5 FAQ’s.

Public Notices

Learn about the NBHCP Covered Species

We created a guide to be used as an educational tool for field personnel, consultants, and researchers and anyone with an interest in the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). The guide provides detail about each of the 22 plant and animal species “covered” by the Natomas Basin Conservancy. Please download and spread the word!

Common Downloads

Here is a selection of some of the Conservancy’s most requested pdfs. If you can’t find what you’re looking for here, please check other sections of the website, including Helpful Documents, Public Notices, Project Mitigation, Education or About Us.