The Conservancy acquires and manages land for the purpose of meeting the objectives of the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan.
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.
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.
- Apply principles of sound science in the creation and management of habitat reserves.
- Review and focus on the NBHCP long-term finance model to insure the Conservancy is financially capable of fully performing its plan operator responsibilities.
- 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 natomasbasin.org/education/the-nbhcp-species.
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.
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.
In 2003, the Conservancy planted 30 cottonwood trees on one of its interior Natomas Basin preserves, hoping that at least 15 would survive and end up being Swainson’s hawk nesting trees.
We planted the trees in a cluster so that any Swainson’s hawks that nested in them would have a 360-degree view of their surroundings, something the experts told us was important. The goal was to have the 15 or more surviving trees mature enough for nesting in 20 years, and used for nesting purposes soon after.
Here we are 16 years later. Two dozen of the trees survive, exceeding expectations, and most importantly, Swainson’s hawk experts now advise that we have an active nest this year. Management and staff at the Conservancy are doing a proverbial “happy dance” over this development. It is proof that planting trees, the appropriate trees for the Swainson’s hawk and for the specific soil type, is important. So is the annual care of the trees as is a good deal of patience.
As later classes of Conservancy-planted trees mature elsewhere in the Natomas Basin, we are hopeful that they too will provide nesting opportunities for this NBHCP Covered Species. Now we have proof that thoughtful planting and care of trees can make a positive difference.
Listed as the number one worst invasive species by the Western Governor’s Association in the category of aquatics is Eurasian watermilfoil (Myriophyllum spicatum).
Eurasian watermilfoil was even at the top of the list when carp, hydrilla, golden algae, water hyacinth and nutria were included! That’s some serious competition.
We can attest to what the Western Governor’s Association is saying. Eurasian watermilfoil has on occasion compromised the Conservancy’s ability to keep managed marsh complexes fully functional. See photos here showing the weed on Conservancy mitigation land.
The Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP) is clear that the managed marsh complexes used for NBHCP mitigation must be fully functional. When we find the pest, we marshal a team of experts to try to deal with it.
But it is a serious challenge. We consider it the Conservancy’s number one weed challenge at this point. Let’s hope the top billing on the Western Governor’s Association list will similarly mobilize regional and state officials to re-double efforts on this problem weed.
(May 18, 2018) Sometimes we get questions about the strange appearance of the eyes of some of the Giant garter snakes we feature in Conservancy media. Some say it looks like something out of a horror film (AKA “scary movie”).
It normally looks like a filmy-looking cover over the eyes, at least in some of the photographs we share.
Actually, this is what is called a nictitating membrane, or, as some would say, third eyelid. Usually, it is considered to be transparent, and enables the animal to continue to see while protecting or moisturizing the eye.
And Giant garter snakes aren’t the only animals in the Natomas Basin that have this nictitating eye lid. Fish, amphibians and some birds are among the creatures that have it. There are many beavers in the Natomas Basin, and they have them as well, although they are thought to be clear. Bald eagles too.
So, don’t be afraid. When you see this, it is normal. At least for our friends on the Conservancy preserves and many other places in the natural world.
(May 7, 2018) When we’re asked what the Giant garter snakes eat, we always respond by saying mosquito fish and tadpoles and similar small aquatic organisms. And, after nearly two decades of observing the Giant garter snake on Conservancy preserves, we can attest to this answer. Time and again, we see that this is what they eat.
As one of the two “Primary species” listed as “Covered Species” under the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Land and the Metro Air Park Habitat Conservation Plan, we take great care to make sure there is plenty of prey of this nature for the Giant garter snakes to eat.
However, recently on the Conservancy preserves, we witnessed a Giant garter snake eating a large green sunfish. I use the word large because the sunfish consumed by this Giant garter snake was many times larger than a mosquito fish or a tadpole. Maybe it is fitting that one of the Giant garter snakes on the Conservancy’s preserves gobbled up a green sunfish. That’s because sunfish are believed to eat Giant garter snake newborns, which look very worm-like at and soon after their birth.
We have video of this event, and it is dramatic. What the video depicts is a Giant garter snake, which we believe is a young-ish male (we say “young” because it is not very big) on a Conservancy preserve, maneuvering the green sunfish away from water and into a position where it can eat it. What is not seen is another segment where the Giant garter snake literally pulls the green sunfish through bankside vegetation to the scene first shown in the video.
WARNING: if you are squeamish about seeing how wildlife feed themselves on other wildlife, watching this video might be disturbing. For others, we think you’ll agree it is fascinating. For us, we are pleased that the managed marsh facilities built by the Conservancy are working well, and this video confirms that Giant garter snakes residing in them are getting some pretty big meals!
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!
This is a notice of a meeting of the Compensation and Governance Committee of the Board of Directors of The Natomas Basin Conservancy on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 3 pm. The meeting will be held at the Conservancy’s office, 2150 River Plaza Drive, Suite 460, Sacramento, California.
This is notice of a regular meeting of the Board of Directors of The Natomas Basin Conservancy on Wednesday, April 3, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at The Natomas Basin Conservancy, 2150 River Plaza Dr., Sacramento, California, third floor suite 380.
This is a notice of a meeting of the Audit Committee of The Natomas Basin Conservancy on Tuesday, March 27, 2019 at 12:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Conservancy’s office, 2150 River Plaza Drive, Suite 460, Sacramento, California.
This is notice of a regular meeting of the Board of Directors of The Natomas Basin Conservancy on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 4:00 p.m. The meeting will be held at The Natomas Basin Conservancy, 2150 River Plaza Dr., Sacramento, California, First Floor, Large Conference Room.
This is a notice of a meeting of the Finance Committee of the Board of Directors of The Natomas Basin Conservancy on Wednesday, February 6, 2019 at 3:00 pm. The meeting will be held at the Natomas Basin Conservancy office, 2150 River Plaza Drive, Suite 460, Sacramento, California.
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!
“In essence, the Conservancy provides refuge and sanctuary for wildlife displaced by urban activity in the Natomas Basin. Annual biological monitoring by independent third parties demonstrates wildlife is thriving on Conservancy-owned mitigation land.”