California’s “Room to Roam Act:” Factoring Wildlife Connectivity Into Land Use Planning
California’s “Room to Roam Act:” Factoring Wildlife Connectivity Into Land Use Planning

Recently, the California Assembly passed Assembly Bill 1889, the “Room to Roam Act.” If enacted without changes, the Room to Roam Act would amend Section 65302 of the Government Code to add certain “fish, wildlife, and habitat connectivity” considerations to the provisions governing general plans for land use in Californian cities and counties.

The bill’s passage in the Assembly is a significant development in efforts to reform California’s land use and wildlife conservation policies, as the bill would require local land use decisions to factor in wildlife movement within or around a project area.

Purpose of the Room to Roam Act

Section 1 of the Room to Roam Act would require local jurisdictions to “consider and implement measures to avoid, minimize, and mitigate impacts to fish, wildlife, and habitat connectivity from existing and planned land uses within their jurisdictions.” The bill also describes the Legislature’s intent that local jurisdictions “implement measures to remediate barriers to wildlife connectivity within their jurisdictions to the maximum extent feasible.”

The Room to Roam Act aims to balance tensions between wildlife conservation, climate change, extreme weather events, and growing urbanization and development in California, including the construction of residential, commercial, and infrastructure projects.  

Adding Wildlife Connectivity to the Conservation Element

A general plan establishes a local jurisdiction’s land use planning, permitting, and project development policies and processes. Pursuant to the Government Code, cities and counties are required to integrate several considerations—“elements”—into these plans, including “conservation elements.”

Under the Room to Roam Act, cities and counties would be required to update the conservation elements of their respective general plans to add numerous wildlife connectivity considerations by January 1, 2026. The updated conservation element must: identify and analyze connectivity, permeability, and natural landscape areas within the jurisdiction; identify and analyze wildlife passage features; consider impacts of wildlife barriers caused by development and avoid, minimize and mitigate these impacts; and analyze and consider options to remediate barriers to wildlife connectivity and restore degraded habitat and open landscape. In this way, the Act would make wildlife connectivity considerations a necessary part of planning and development processes for local land use decisions in California.

Other Key Provisions Concerning Wildlife Connectivity

As a streamlining measure, the Room to Roam Act would allow cities and counties to incorporate existing plans and policies by reference into the updated general plan’s conservation element if these existing plans and policies already satisfy the Room to Roam Act’s updated conservation element requirements referenced in the previous paragraph.

For cities and counties that do not currently have compliant conservation elements in effect, the bill contemplates that cities and counties “may” consider adopting standards, policies, implementation programs, and/or ordinances to fulfill the Act’s requirements. The Act allows local jurisdictions to consult with or consider an array of sources and provides several examples of the same, including the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Native American tribes, neighboring jurisdictions, and any agency or institution “as deemed appropriate by the city or county.”

Finally, the Room to Roam Act would allow cities and counties to update their respective general plans with these above-referenced wildlife connectivity considerations as a separate element or section—i.e., apart from the conservation element altogether.


If the bill ultimately becomes law, cities and counties will be required to evaluate and update their general plans to consider wildlife connectivity in land use decisions and permitting processes before January 1, 2026. In turn, these changes potentially could increase the burden on developers to incorporate additional conservation measures into their development plans to address connectivity issues. Although there are already laws in effect in California that require local governments and project developers to account for development’s impacts on wildlife, the Room to Roam Act adds a layer of complexity to project permitting that would potentially increase costs for study and analysis and cause delays through permitting bodies’ more in-depth review of wildlife connectivity considerations.

  • John B. O'Meara

    John O'Meara handles matters concerning liability for environmental compliance issues and torts, including enforcement actions brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and state or local regulators. He ...

Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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