Endangered species compliance has become increasingly difficult in Southern California, particularly in the Southern San Joaquin Valley which supports more rare species than any other area in the lower 48 states. As development has proceeded for many years without establishment of significant habitat preserves, increasing numbers of species are being proposed and listed as endangered. Development of the Coles Levee Ecosystem Preserve (Preserve) by ARCO Oil & Gas Company (ARCO) benefits endangered species, habitat conservation, and industry.

The Preserve was established with a conservation easement over approximately 6,059 acres. The easement was deeded to the California Department of Fish and Game. ARCO will continue its oil and gas activities on the Preserve and will manage the surface for the benefit of the rare and endangered plant and animal species that inhabit the property. Upon abandonment of the oil and gas operations, the developed areas will be reclaimed for wildlife habitat.

The Preserve provides specific economic benefits to the company and benefits habitat, conservation, and the environment in general. These benefits to the landowner include assurance of the ability to conduct exploration and development activities due to a streamlined permitting process, a fifty percent cost savings in providing endangered species compensation acreage, certainty that compensation acreage will be available, and sales of excess endangered species compensation to third parties.

Management of the Preserve by the private landowner is an unprecedented occurrence in California Department of Fish and Game policy. Private/public partnerships of this type will be the key to solving future environmental issues. The development of the Preserve is a win-win situation for industry and conservation.

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