Senator Lois Wolk has introduced two separate bills into the California Senate to amend the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA).

SB 1303, as amended, would amend section 2087 of the California Fish and Game Code, which exempts otherwise lawful “routine and ongoing agricultural activities” from the take prohibitions established by CESA. Routine and ongoing agricultural activities are defined by regulation to include, among other things, “any practices performed by a farmer on a farm as incident to or in conjunction with [ ] farming operations.”  Cal. Code Regs. tit. 14 § 786.1.

Presently, section 2087 is set to expire on January 1, 2011. SB 1303, as amended, would extend the expiration date to January 1, 2012. The bill has broad support from the agricultural community. Absent this provision, supporters argue that farmers may be subject to penalties under CESA if their lands provide habitat for listed species, which creates an incentive structure that could undermine the purposes of CESA.

The bill was passed out of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and is set to be heard by the Committee on Appropriations on May 3, 2010.

SB 1334, as amended, would amend section 2820 of the California Fish and Game Code, which is a provision of the NCCPA. The NCCPA authorizes the California Department of Fish and Game to enter into a planning agreement with any person or public agency to prepare a natural community conservation plan (NCCP) in cooperation with a local agency that has land use permit authority over the activities proposed to be addressed in the plan, to provide comprehensive management and conservation of multiple wildlife species. Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2810(a). An approved NCCP may permit take of threatened or endangered species that is otherwise prohibited by CESA, provided such species are covered by the plan. Section 2820 sets forth the findings that the Department of Fish and Game must make in order to approve a NCCP. Id. § 2820.

SB 1334 would amend section 2820(a)(1), which requires the Department to make a finding that the NCCP “has been developed consistent with the process identified in the planning agreement entered into pursuant to Section 2810”, by adding the following clause “including cooperation with all local agencies that have land use permit authority over the activities proposed to be addressed in the plan.” This proposed amendment is a response to the Bay Delta Conservation Planning process, and its supporters contend that the steering committee for the Bay Delta Conservation Plan has failed to work cooperatively with local land use authorities to date.

The bill was passed out of the Committee on Natural Resources and Water and is set to be heard by the Committee on Appropriations on May 3, 2010.