Central Valley Habitat Exchange

Working with farmers to protect multiple species in California’s Central Valley

Over the last century, development and agricultural production in California's Central Valley have replaced more than 95 percent of historic wetland, riparian, and floodplain habitat. As a result, numerous species populations have declined, including economically significant salmon. Today, California faces the challenge of recovering these species, and the ecosystems on which they depend, while also maintaining productive agricultural lands.

The Central Valley Habitat Exchange is a program that creates opportunities for farmers and ranchers to conserve and restore habitat for at-risk wildlife in the Central Valley. The exchange facilitates investment in conservation and restoration of vital Central Valley habitat by promoting, monitoring and assisting in habitat transactions.

The exchange strives to create a future where:

  • Landowners are compensated for sustainable management practices and restoration activities that result in measurable improvements to the environment.
  • The Central Valley supports healthier streams, resilient floodplains and riparian corridors, resulting in more jobs, cost savings, and other societal benefits.
  • Public and private investments in conservation in the Central Valley are accountable and transparent.

More about the exchange

Currently, the exchange's geographic focus is on the floor of the Central Valley (areas below 300 feet) and uses four regions (Sacramento, Delta, San Joaquin, and Tulare) to stratify our work. This geographic area includes the extended System-wide Planning Area of the Central Valley Flood Protection Plan as well as the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.

Within this area, the exchange is working to measure and preserve habitat for the following species:

  • Chinook salmon (fall, winter and spring run)
  • Swainson's hawk
  • Riparian songbirds
  • Giant garter snake
  • Monarch butterfly

The exchange is considering a number of species for future tool development, including sandhill crane (greater and lesser), shorebirds, and waterfowl.

Landowners as part of the solution

With 70% of the land in the Central Valley under private ownership, effective conservation for species must include programs compatible with working lands.

The exchange allows habitat to be traded as a commodity by assessing the value - both quantity and quality - of habitat on a given parcel, which landowners can sell to private and public investors. Investors include state agencies seeking credits for mitigation requirements or restoration mandates and private developers with standalone mitigation needs.

Through the exchange, farmers are paid to "grow" habitat such as flooded fields for salmon and migratory birds, manages row crops or alfalfa for Swainson's hawk and wetlands for giant garter snakes. The result is a new funding stream that enables landowners to earn revenue by implementing innovative strategies to restore functional habitat.

A collaborative partnership

The exchange is a collaboration among American Rivers, Environmental Defense Fund, Trout Unlimited, Point Blue Conservation Science, Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Conservancy, Department of Water Resources, California Trout, Environmental Incentives, California Department of Conservation, Riparian Habitat Joint Venture (RHJV), and Audubon California.

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