Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank
The Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank (ZSCB) is dedicated to preserving, enhancing and restoring key parcels of Sandhill habitat in Santa Cruz County. ZSCB offers a creative, habitat-based solution to preservation and recovery of rare and endangered Sandhill species in the region. By focusing on large, contiguous areas of high quality habitat, ZSCB offers marked biological advantages to piecemeal regulation of fragmented and/or partially developed sites. ZSCB also facilitates a more coherent, straightforward regulatory framework for those property owners who are seeking compliance with state and federal laws pertaining to endangered species.
ZSCB was formed in 2004, approved by USFWS in 2006, and formal operating agreements between the Bank and USFWS and the County in 2010, and has provided landowners with a relatively affordable mitigation option through the purchase of conservation credits.
Prior to the implementation of the bank, landowners faced two major difficulties obtaining approval for development projects in the Sandhills. The first impediment was lack of a reasonable mitigation option to compensate for project impacts. Establishment of the Conservation Bank and formal agreements between the Bank, US Fish & Wildlife, the County of Santa Cruz and the city of Scott’s Valley, provide eligible landowners a relatively affordable mitigation option through the purchase of credits. The second difficulty was procedural in nature and involved obtaining the necessary authorizations from USFWS, and the County or City. Implementing the operating agreement between the Bank and County eliminated the major procedural hurdle for the County to issue permits once federal requirements have been satisfied.
In addition to helping property owners in the Sandhills, it’s important to recognize that providing a mechanism for mitigation banking benefits the Sandhills ecosystem. This approach allows Sandhills preservation and management to be done on a larger scale with the benefit of dedicated funding to implement a detailed adaptive management and monitoring plan.
The Ben Lomond Sandhills Preserve (Preserve) is an approximately 22-acre preserve protected as part of the Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank (ZSCB), which was established to preserve, enhance, and restore key parcels of Sandhills habitat in Santa Cruz County, and recover populations of rare and endangered species they support. The Preserve is located in central Santa Cruz County near the unincorporated town of Ben Lomond. To the east it abuts the 220-acre Quail Hollow Quarry, which features a 110-acre mine surrounded by 110 acres of conservation and buffer areas. The other three sides of the Preserve adjoin residential parcels.
As part of the ZSCB proposal approved by the US Fish and Wildlife Service and County of Santa Cruz, ZSCB preserves are managed in perpetuity following the approaches outlined in the Adaptive Management and Monitoring Plan for the Zayante Sandhills Conservation Bank (Plan; McGraw 2006). The Plan describes the habitat management, maintenance, and monitoring tasks to be implemented in an adaptive management framework in order to achieve biological goals and objectives for the endangered species and sensitive communities within the Preserve.