San Diego Zoo Global announced that it will be working with Cadiz Inc. to manage the newly created Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank. Cadiz Inc. is creating the Bank by designating up to 7,400 acres of its private land holdings in eastern San Bernardino County for permanent protection through the establishment of the Fenner Valley Desert Tortoise Conservation Bank. The Bank, largest-ever approved by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (“CDFW”), will provide permanent protection of habitat for the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a California State and federally listed threatened species.
“With scores of projects planned in Southern California that could place the desert tortoise at risk, we are fortunate that Cadiz is able to protect such vast territory for the benefit of this threatened animal and others,” said Ron Swaisgood Ph.D., Director of Applied Animal Ecology, San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research. “It is through such actions and ongoing research at these protected lands that sustainable recovery of the threatened desert tortoise could one day be achieved.”
Under an MOU with Cadiz Inc., San Diego Zoo conservation experts will work with the Bank to assist in the development of conservation management strategies for the threatened desert tortoise and other conservation-dependent wildlife within the bank properties.
The properties enrolled in the Bank are located in the Mojave Desert near the Mojave National Preserve and the Nevada border in an area designated by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service as Desert Tortoise Critical Habitat. These properties are undeveloped and home to various threatened species in addition to the desert tortoise.
The Fenner Conservation Bank was approved by the CDFW, the public agency responsible for coordinating California’s land conservation banking program. Under the CDFW program, private lands enrolled in a conservation bank can be used to offset impacts to species or habitats that may occur outside of the bank’s boundaries. The approval of the Fenner Conservation Bank by the CDFW allows bank credits, which are associated with certain parcels of land, to be made available immediately to those projects and entities seeking to offset impacts to the desert tortoise across the Southern California desert region. It is anticipated that various projects planned for the desert, including renewable energy projects, will benefit from the credits that will be available from the Fenner Conservation Bank.
“The California desert is home to unique environmental treasures as well as exceptional industries and businesses, all of which define our greatness. I’m grateful to private landowners like Cadiz that can enter into public-private ventures such as conservation banks for the benefit of the desert environment, because without such partners our State’s ability to balance species protection with our development needs would be greatly limited,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Cook, (CA-8).
Upon sale of credits, the associated property will be permanently protected under a conservation easement and managed in perpetuity by the San Diego Habitat Conservancy, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing high-quality habitat management services in undeveloped areas throughout Southern California.
“The San Diego Habitat Conservancy is excited to be participating in this first of its kind desert tortoise conservation bank. This creative, long-term resource management effort will greatly benefit the species by guaranteeing safe, sustainable habitat in perpetuity for this dangerously threatened species,” said Don Scoles, Executive Director of the San Diego Habitat Conservancy.
Veteran land conservation consultants, Michael McCollum of McCollum Associates and Barry Jones of Sweetwater Environmental Biologists, Inc., coordinated the establishment of the Fenner Conservation Bank for Cadiz. McCollum and Jones were also instrumental in the development of the state and federal conservation banking policy program and are responsible for guiding the creation of over 17 conservation and mitigation banks in California.
About Cadiz Inc.
Founded in 1983, Cadiz Inc. is a land and water resource development company that owns 70 sq. miles of property and water rights in Southern California. The Company is engaged in a combination of organic farming and water supply and storage projects, including the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation, Recovery & Storage Project, a public-private partnership approved to provide a new, reliable water supply throughout Southern California. Cadiz abides by a “Green Compact” focused on sustainable practices to manage its land, water and agricultural resources and has committed to implement its projects without harm to the environment. For more information about Cadiz, visit cadizinc.com.
About San Diego Zoo Global
Bringing species back from the brink of extinction is the goal of San Diego Zoo Global. As a leader in conservation, the work of San Diego Zoo Global includes onsite wildlife conservation efforts (representing both plants and animals) at the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, and San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research, as well as international field programs on six continents. The work of these entities is made accessible to children through the San Diego Zoo Kids network reaching out through the Internet and in children’s hospitals nationwide. The work of San Diego Zoo Global is made possible by the San Diego Zoo Global Wildlife Conservancy and is supported in part by the Foundation of San Diego Zoo Global.