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Safe harbor deal for Ventura River watershed open to public review

Posted: December 8, 2009 2:58 p.m.
Updated: December 9, 2009 2:13 p.m.
 
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has released a draft safe harbor agreement aimed at assisting the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy in enhancing habitat for the California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), least Bell's vireo (Vireo bellii pusillus), and southwestern willow flycatcher (Empidonax traillii extimus) in the Ventura River watershed, near Ojai, Calif.

The proposed agreement is open for public review and comment through Jan. 8, 2010.

Properties covered under the proposed agreement total 1,687 acres and include: the Ventura River - Rancho El Nido Preserve, the Ojai Meadows Preserve, the Ventura River - Confluence Preserve, and the San Antonio Creek Preserve.

Under a Safe Harbor Agreement, participating landowners or land managers voluntarily undertake management activities on their property to enhance, restore, or maintain habitat for species listed under the Endangered Species Act. Safe Harbor Agreements provide assurances to landowners that they will not be subject to additional restrictions if they increase the population of listed species on their property.

The proposed safe harbor agreement outlines ways in which the Ojai Valley Land Conservancy, which owns or manages all the property under the proposed agreement, will restore, enhance, and manage aquatic, riparian, and upland habitat with the goal of increasing populations of California red-legged frogs, least Bell's vireos, and southwestern willow flycatchers.

The agreement would last 30 years.

The 1,591-acre Ventura River - Rancho El Nido Preserve was historically agricultural land. The preserve now consists of large areas of relatively intact native plant communities. Within its boundaries are the Ventura River, Rice Creek, Wills Creek, Sycamore Creek, and Olive Creek.

The 57-acre Ojai Meadows Preserve, located in the town of Meiners Oaks and the city of Ojai, is a low-lying area where extensive restoration has been conducted.

The 30-acre Ventura River - Confluence Preserve is at the confluence of the perennially flowing reaches of the Ventura River and San Antonio Creek. The eastern and northern portions of the preserve contain some of the only remaining old growth riparian forest along these waterways.

The nine-acre San Antonio Creek Preserve contains small sections of riparian habitat and serves as a wildlife corridor for other areas of the Ojai Valley.

The Ojai Valley Land Conservancy (ovlc.org/), a community-based nonprofit group, works to protect and restore open space in the Ojai Valley. In partnership with local governments, it also provides education programs and implements habitat restoration and enhancement projects.

The notice of the proposed Safe Harbor Agreement will publish in the Federal Register Dec. 9, 2009. The agreement will be available online at fws.gov/ventura under "Recent News Events."

Comments can be sent via email to: fw8SHAOVLC@fws.gov, by fax to: (805) 644-3958, or mailed to: Field Supervisor; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; Ventura Fish and Wildlife Office; 2493 Portola Road, Suite B; Ventura, CA 93003.

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