Once an RCIS is approved, habitat and conservation projects can be implemented to work towards the goals and priorities defined in the plan. There are two primary ways that conservation projects are funded under an RCIS: 1) Mitigation Credit Agreements (MCAs) and 2) grant funding.
Mitigation Credit Agreements
When development projects like building a new road or housing subdivision have significant environmental impacts, project proponents need to offset those impacts by taking actions or paying to protect resources or species somewhere else (a concept known as mitigation). Habitat projects in the RCIS area can use mitigation credit agreements (MCAs) to sell the habitat they have created or protected as “credits” to entities who need to mitigate their project’s negative environmental impacts.
The MCAs define the rules for developing and purchasing these credits.
To ensure credits are consistent across projects, MCAs define:
- The quality and quantity of habitat that must be protected to create a credit.
- The methods to measure habitat improvements.
- The financial and legal requirements needed to ensure long-term conservation success.
MCAs are a new form of mitigation that can be
Created on working lands, opening up new funding opportunities for farmers and ranchers.
Temporary in nature, as opposed to a permanent conservation easement.
Developed and sold in advance of impacts.
MCAs must follow the conservation strategy outlined in RCIS, giving the California Department of Fish & Wildlife (CDFW) and other regulatory agencies confidence that these projects fit within the larger conservation planning framework of the RCIS. In that way, MCAs can speed up the process of developing and approving mitigation, while still ensuring a high-quality standard for habitat conserved.
More traditional funding sources, like federal or state grants, can also support habitat projects under an RCIS. While each grant has its own set of project requirements like monitoring, reporting, and match funding, these requirements will be less intensive than creating an MCA. This is because habitat projects are not being used to offset impacts elsewhere, and mitigation requires a rigorous quality standard.
Local nonprofits, National Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), and Resource Conservation Districts (RCDs) are great resources for landowners interested in applying for grant funding for habitat projects. Potential funding sources include: