Integrated Regional Conservation & Development

Purpose & Interagency Coordination

As California’s population continues to grow – with projections of 50 million by 2050 - the associated demands for development will place intensified levels of stress on the State’s significant natural wealth.  Given the potential for conflicts between conservation and development, it is vital we advance a new planning paradigm in California – one that considers our broad objectives for sustainable development and conservation at a landscape, or regional, scale.  In this vision, development is conducted in a way that avoids and minimizes harm to California’s natural landscapes and resources, and unavoidable impacts would be mitigated to advance regional conservation priorities.  Coordinated planning for development and conservation will yield better outcomes for both; while addressing the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, maximization of groundwater recharge and protection of prime agricultural lands.

The Strategic Growth Council (SGC), recognizing the need for this integrated planning approach, has launched the Integrated Regional Conservation and Development (IRCAD) Program.  The SGC passed a resolution in October 2014 to support the institutionalization of IRCAD across state agencies.  The purpose of this Program is to define regional conservation goals for priority species and natural communities, and strategies to implement these goals in the context of anticipated development projects covering transportation, energy and other sectors.

Program Goals

This assessment framework will help to direct development to places that have the least impact on important natural resources, and mitigate unavoidable impacts in ways that maximize conservation benefits.  Ideally, regulatory and permitting agencies will be able to provide advanced assurances that encourage the use these conservation strategies for project siting, implantation and mitigation.

Strategies

The Council is working with State and Federal regulatory agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), universities, as well as infrastructure and other development interests to develop the IRCAD statewide framework. 

  • The California Biodiversity Council, representing 42 state, federal and local agencies, has adopted a resolution stating that its member agencies will actively support the development and implementation of the IRCAD approach, and work to align their member agencies to address the regional conservation strategies in their work. 
  • A working group with representatives from agencies, academia, and NGOs has been established to develop and document the framework, methods and data needs to guide the implementation of this Program.  
  • The IRCAD program will build on the vast amount of conservation information and regional conservation assessments that have already been developed across the State.  In support of this initiative, 121 regional conservation projects have been assimilated into a common data platform to establish the framework for future regional conservation assessments (http://sgc.apps.ircad.databasin.org).
  • Key demonstration projects are being advanced to showcase the process, partnerships, and benefits of this approach.  These efforts will help to realize the integration of conservation and development planning in places, so stakeholders will have the opportunity to see how this Program works in practice.  These regional level demonstration projects will help to inform and refine the ongoing development of the statewide framework.
  • The High Speed Rail Authority is supporting this SGC work, and will use specific HSR sections to demonstrate and refine components of this approach.  The HSR sections that are considered as IRCAD demonstrations include the Southern California sections between Bakersfield and Burbank, as well as the Central Grasslands section between Merced and Gilroy.  Additional demonstrations are being advanced in the Sierra Nevada, San Joaquin and Bay Area.
  • Policies, other agreements, and funding strategies are being evaluated in support of this program. 

Measureable Outcomes

By 2018, SGC’s goal is to have developed the standards, data and supporting technologies to identify and map conservation priorities and implementation strategies for each ecoregion.  Demonstration projects will have completed work in selected ecoregions to address conflicts between regional development and conservation objectives.  This ecoregional information base and process will provide a framework for conservation and development decisions, and will improve the efficiencies for permitting and mitigation of priority development projects.