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What is a Regional Conservation Investment Strategy?

A Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (RCIS) is a science-based, nonbinding, voluntary conservation strategy approved by the state that identifies at-risk natural resources and species, as well as potential actions to protect them. The Kaweah RCIS is focused on supporting working lands, native habitat, and creating options for landowners who need to manage their groundwater use.

An RCIS identifies opportunities for protecting, creating, restoring, and reconnecting habitat for at-risk species identified in the region.

It also provides an opportunity for landowners to receive payments for creating this habitat on formerly irrigated agricultural lands. It does this by allowing for the creation of mitigation credit agreements (MCAs) and, likely, driving public sources of funding to the region. MCAs provide developers more options for mitigating loss of endangered species habitat and landowners an opportunity to be paid to create habitat.

Importantly, an RCIS does not create, modify, or impose any regulatory requirements or standards. It does not regulate land use, establish land use designations or affect the land use authority of a public agency.

The RCIS program was created by the state Legislature in 2016 and is administered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.  The Kaweah RCIS is the first to be initiated in response to the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

Elements of an RCIS

Each RCIS has content that is individualized to the local context and need, but every RCIS must include the following required components:

Description of RCIS Area

Relevant geographic boundaries, ecological features, land use, and organizational or governmental entities.

Natural Communities Information

Local habitats (ecosystems, plants, animal and bird species) within the region and the stresses on these natural habitats stemming from human activity.

Biodiversity & Species Information

The relevant species in the region.

Existing Conservation Areas

Land that is already protected.

Pressures & Stressors

Potential impacts or threats on the local species and habitat.

Major Infrastructure & Development

Existing and planned engineered features in the region that may impact species and require conservation.