In the past decade, the number of people living in the Inland Empire has risen dramatically, accompanied by a predictable increase in area construction to accommodate this larger population. The resulting proliferation of buildings and infrastructure has benefitted the growing number of residents; however, one unpleasant side effect has been the consequential negative impacts to the local landscape including open space loss, dramatic habitat alteration, and increased presence of sediment in water bodies. Those responsible for habitat impacts are required by the state of California to mitigate for them; project proponents must first attempt to minimize, then make up for the damages inflicted upon the environment as a result of project construction. There are many potential forms of mitigation that can be assigned to developers including habitat creation, habitat restoration, and open space preservation. Local examples of mitigation within the boundaries of the District include constructed sediment basins in San Timoteo Creek in Redlands and the restoration of habitat in the Devil’s Canyon/San Sevaine region of San Bernardino.
The IERCD is constantly working to improve the scope and functionality of its mitigation program. One of the main strategies employed in an attempt to accomplish this improvement has been the creation of the Mitigation Program Report, based on the report detailing the mitigation program run by the Solano Land Trust. The IERCD District Manager worked with the members of the IERCD mitigation committee to draft a comprehensive description of current mitigation practices including program goals and guidelines. The IERCD has sent the document to contacts at state regulatory agencies as well as to local city governments in an effort to gather support for and to improve the District mitigation program.
Nearly all mitigation undertakings have the same general process and agency involvement, despite a large variation in project origin and in desired outcome of the mitigation assignment. Any new development project is first analyzed for its potential impacts on natural resources; if this impact is determined to be of significant size, the project plans will be submitted to state regulatory agents for review. The regulators will assign mitigation responsibilities to project developers that correspond to the size of the projects impacts, as well as to the habitat types projected to be negatively affected by the development.
Conservation organizations such as the IERCD play a variety of roles in the process of carrying mitigation responsibilities from the conceptual phase to implementation. In projects planned for District lands, the IERCD will assist with permit interpretation, location of potential project sites, assistance with habitat mitigation and management plans, and with creation and recordation of the conservation easement if applicable. The IERCD provides a full range of these services to developers impacting District lands in an effort to maximize the amount of land conserved and habitat enhanced as a result of development.
Currently, all mitigation projects must be applied to lands in permanent conservation, either due to classification as Federal land, or protected via conservation easement. As a public agency, the District is a qualified easement holder, which requires IERCD supervision in perpetuity to ensure permanent conservation. Easements attempt to facilitate this conservation through restriction of certain activities upon land, as well as requiring the holder to perform maintenance and monitoring tasks to ensure continued health of the parcel’s vegetation and wildlife communities. In order to accomplish these tasks, the individual developers remit endowments in amounts calculated by IERCD staff in order to allow for perpetual funding of all easement tasks.