DoD Biodiversity Conservation Handbook
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Chapter 5 Case Studies

Multiple Uses: Beale AFB

Habitat Conservation Planning Provides an Ecosystem-Based Roadmap for Natural Resources Protection

Beale Air Force Base, situated in the northern Sacramento Valley of California, is the home of numerous highly sensitive vernal pool wetlands. The airbase has a long history of addressing wetland regulatory requirements. Complying with those requirements can be burdensome and expensive, and it can complicate not only meeting the military mission but detract from larger base conservation efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has outlined an ecosystem-based approach to addressing these requirements known as Special Area Management Planning (SAMP) that we successfully employed at Beale.

We addressed samp through the development of the Beale afb Habitat Conservation and Management Plan (HCMP) that provides a multi-species approach to natural resources conservation by protecting large tracts of land that provide habitat for many species of plants and wildlife. The plan also provides mitigation plans for adverse effects on natural resources associated with implementation of the Beale afb General Plan and provides guidelines for Endangered Species Act and Clean Water Act compliance for future projects.

How it Supports Beale's Mission

The base's general plan identifies areas that are slated for future development. These areas are called “development areas.” Sensitive natural resources on the base are mainly vernal pools (seasonal wetlands) and their associated wildlife species, and those that will be affected in the development areas have been identified. The hcmp defines what the base will do to mitigate for all wetlands that will be disturbed in these development areas in support of Beale's mission. At this point, all mitigation can be accommodated on the base's property. The mitigation consists of “conservation areas,” where preservation, management, and restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat will occur. Conservation areas comprise 5,300 total acres, which is roughly 23 percent of the base's property.

Preservation: As a tradeoff for impacts in development areas, Beale has set aside existing high-quality wetlands in conservation areas throughout the base. These areas will only be used for future activities that are already in progress (such as drinking water well maintenance) and other activities that are compatible with grassland and seasonal wetland management (such as cattle grazing and prescribed burning).

  • The main vernal pool preservation area is on the west side of the base to the north of North Beale Road. The vernal pools in this area are more likely to have federally listed crustaceans (vernal pool fairy shrimp and vernal pool tadpole shrimp) and a larger diversity of native plant species.
  • The riparian preservation area along Dry Creek and Best Slough will also preserve approximately 720 acres of riparian (streamside) forest. This preservation will not serve as mitigation for wetlands, but instead will provide protection of the area of the base that has the highest biodiversity (i.e., many plant and wildlife species occur there), as well as providing habitat for a federally threatened species of fish.

Management: “Management areas” are those containing high-quality wetlands and threatened and endangered species habitat, but these wetlands are in areas identified for possible (but not likely) development in the future. Any development that would occur in those areas would be done as a last resort – meaning that there are no other areas that are appropriate for that type of specific activity. Therefore, these areas will be managed in the same way as the preservation areas, unless a special development project is identified for these areas. restoration: Also included in the hcmp are “restoration areas” where the construction of approximately forty acres of vernal pools and other aquatic areas will occur. These regions previously supported the vegetation types that will be restored there, but they had been degraded and destroyed by past agricultural and military practices before most environmental laws existed.

The Future

The planning that occurred during the development of the Habitat Conservation and Management Plan now serves as a basis for obtaining large-scale permits from the appropriate regulatory agencies. Once these permits are completed, the development process at Beale will be expedited in support of the mission, while still assuring that Beale's precious natural resources are protected.

© Copyright 2008. NatureServe.

About This Case Study's Author
By Kirsten Christopherson
Beale Air Force Base Environmental Flight
Phone: 530-634-2643 (DSN 368)

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