The Conservancy recently completed its annual meeting with its tenant growers. Communications with the farmers focused on the HCP’s “Covered Species” and examining ways to help the Conservancy implement the HCPs.
This year’s meeting included presentations by Doug Leslie, Senior Wildlife Biologist with ICF International and Brian Halsted, Ph.D., Research Wildlife Biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. Both presentations discussed how the HCP’s Covered Species are impacted by, and can be advanced by, farming operations. Also advising Conservancy staff and growers was Whitney Brim-Deforest, Ph.D., UCCE Rice Advisor, who discussed a particularly challenging rice production issue, weedy rice.
A unique requirement of Conservancy tenant farmers is that they are required to comply with the Natomas Basin Habitat Conservation Plan (NBHCP). This includes farming in ways that maximize the benefit of mitigation land for the NBHCP’s “Covered Species,” including the Swainson’s hawk and Giant garter snake, among others.
A number of crops are grown on Conservancy mitigation land. By far the largest is rice, which is dedicated mostly to providing mitigation for the Giant garter snake. The Conservancy also produces alfalfa, squash, onions, safflower, sunflower, milo and various non-rice grains (oats, rye, barley, etc.). A limited amount of livestock grazing also supports agricultural diversity on Conservancy mitigation land and provides specialized habitat conditions for certain HCP Covered Species, most notably, the Swainson’s hawk.