SCCRCIS: Environmental Setting

Santa Cruz County RCIS – Environmental Setting

The draft Environmental Setting section of the Santa Cruz County RCIS (SCCRCIS) includes an inventory of natural resources (i.e. ecoregions, climate, disturbance, watersheds and habitats, and aquatic and terrestrial systems). It also discusses conservation plans, protected lands, mitigation banks, and existing and planned development in Santa Cruz County.

The SCCRCIS area features varied topography, geology, soils, and hydrology that give rise to a mosaic of biologically rich communities. These include:

  • Globally rare terrestrial communities: old-growth redwood forests, Santa Cruz sandhills, karst caves, coastal prairie grasslands, and maritime chaparral;
  • Coastal streams and their associated riparian corridors, ponds, sloughs, and other wetlands, and rocky seashore, dunes, and coastal bluffs; and
  • Widespread communities including coastal scrub, oak woodlands, and redwood forests, support rich assemblages of plants and animals.

The SCCRCIS Area supports:

  • The California Floristic Province, which is a global biodiversity hotspot identified for its abundance of native and endemic plants
  • More than 1,000 native plant species including 17 that are found only within the county, such as Santa Cruz wallflower (Erysimum teretifolium) and Scotts Valley polygonum (Polygonum hickmanii).
  • A diversity of animal species, including endemic invertebrate species such as the Zayante band-winged grasshopper (Trimerotropis infantilis) and Ohlone tiger beetle (Cicindela ohlone), other rare species endemic to the Monterey Bay Area region, such as the Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) and Santa Cruz kangaroo rat (Dipodomys venustus venustus), and the more widespread rare species such as the southern extent of the critically endangered coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch) and the marbled murrelet (Brachyramphus marmoratus).
  • Wide-ranging terrestrial species, such as American badger (Taxidea taxus) and mountain lion (Puma concolor). These are other relatively wide-ranging species rely on maintaining permeability within the Santa Cruz Mountains, as well as safeguarding critical  landscape linkages between the Santa Cruz Mountains and both the Gabilan and Diablo range mountains. This habitat connectivity is essential to maintaining genetic diversity within populations and can facilitate species’ adaptation to climate change.
  • A wealth of goods and services, including crop pollination, water filtration, flood protection, carbon sequestration, climate change adaptation, recreation, and tourism
  • Protected Lands: parks, reserves and other protected open space areas cover 32% of the RICS area (Section 2.2.2).
  • Developed Areas: working lands used for cultivation and timber production, public infrastructure including transportation corridors, energy transmission facilities and water supply infrastructure are located within the RCIS area (Section
  • Conservation Plans: designed to protect and restore biological systems and promote rate species persistence while safeguarding the regions other conservation values, including working lands and water resources (Section 2.3).

The draft Environmental Setting  section provides additional details on these facets of the SCCRCIS Area, which informed the selection of the conservation elements. The analysis of pressures and stressors to these species and biological systems will be included in Section 2.6 of the SCCRCIS, which will be prepared following finalization of the conservation elements based on stakeholder review of this report.


Click here to review the DRAFT Santa Cruz County RCIS – Environmental Setting and Conservation Elements


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