Information about Wildlife Corridors in Ventura County
1. What is a wildlife corridor?
Wildlife corridors are areas of land that connect large areas of habitat where animals live and move. These corridors help animals move through natural areas. The fragmentation of natural areas within Ventura County due to development patterns can limit the ability of animal populations to move to areas they need for survival. Wildlife and natural resource specialists consider the protection and enhancement of existing habitat connectivity linkages to be essential to the future health of the County’s natural resources.
2. Where are the wildlife corridors in Ventura County?
On March 19, 2019, the Ventura County Board of Supervisors approved new regulations related to wildlife movement in addition to a Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor map identifying those areas that are subject to the new regulations. The new map and regulations became effective on May 18, 2019. (See Section C for more information about the new regulations.)
3. How were these wildlife corridors determined?
The corridors were identified as part of a project to map areas that are used by a large variety of mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, and plants (seeds) to access protected areas of habitat that are critical for their long-term survival. The corridors were mapped using widely-accepted conservation planning techniques and they were based on the expertise of many scientists and subject-matter experts.
The mapping project culminated in a report titled South Coast Missing Linkages: A Wildland Network for the South Coast Ecoregion (South Coast Wildlands, 2008). According to the study authors, the objective of the project was “…to protect an interconnected system of natural space where our native biodiversity can thrive at minimal cost to other human endeavors.”
4. What are Critical Wildlife Passage Areas?
There are three Critical Wildlife Passage Areas (CWPAs) located within the boundaries of the larger Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridors: an area between Oak View and Lake Casitas; the Simi Hills including Bell Canyon, Box Canyon, and the Santa Susana Knolls; and the Tierra Rejada Valley Click here to see the Critical Wildlife Passage Area Maps.
Planning Division staff, in consultation with wildlife experts, identified these areas as being particularly critical for facilitating wildlife movement based one or more of the following factors: (1) the existence of intact native habitat or other habitat with important beneficial values for wildlife; (2) proximity to water bodies or ridgelines; (3) proximity of critical roadway crossings used by wildlife; (4) likelihood of encroachment by future development, and within which wildlife movement and plant dispersal could be easily disturbed by development; or (5) presence of non-urbanized or undeveloped lands within a geographic location that connects core habitats at a regional scale.
Specific regulations apply to properties within these areas.
Information about the Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Project
5. Why did the Planning Division work on this project and what does it include?
The Ventura County Board of Supervisors directed the County Planning Division to develop regulations that would protect habitat connectivity and wildlife movement corridors within the non-coastal area of the county. The project includes revisions to the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance (NCZO) and revisions to some County policies that deal with wildlife movement that are part of the County’s General Plan.
6. When was the project completed?
The project was officially approved by the Ventura County Board of Supervisors (Board) on March 19, 2019, when the final Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor map was adopted. In addition to the March 19, 2019 hearing, the Board held a much lengthier hearing on March 12, 2019, when the ordinance provisions were considered and approved. The Planning Commission also held a hearing on the project on January 31, 2019.
All hearings were recorded and are available for viewing at the following links:
- Planning Commission, Jan. 31, 2019
- Board of Supervisors, March 12, 2019
- Board of Supervisors, March 19, 2019
The ordinance operative date is May 18, 2019.
7. How will this project benefit wildlife?
Habitat loss and fragmentation resulting from urban growth are the leading threats to biodiversity worldwide, and this risk is particularly severe in southern California, which is home to over 400 species of native plants and animals considered endangered, threatened or sensitive by government agencies and conservation groups. Countering these threats requires protecting connections between existing open space areas that form a regional wildland network.
Protecting these connections between wildlands allows natural ecological processes, such as migration, to continue operating as they have for millennia. Movement is essential to wildlife survival, whether it be the day-to-day movements of individuals seeking food, shelter, or mates, dispersal of offspring to find new homes, or seasonal migration to find favorable conditions.
Disruption of these natural movement patterns by roads, development, and other impediments can alter these essential ecosystem functions and lead to losses of species. These effects can cascade from one level of an ecosystem to another with the impact of one species affecting the other, for example:
- Food production: Adverse impacts to pollinators can affect food production;
- Disease transmission: Loss of diversity in plant and animal populations can result in reduced resistance to diseases and increased spread of disease; and
- Air and water purification: Loss of vegetation can increase runoff, which increases siltation in water bodies and reduces the natural purification process provided by an intact ecosystem.
8. I have seen animals around my property that move around without any problems, and there are already laws to protect wildlife. Why is this project necessary?
While there are existing laws to protect threatened and endangered species, as well as certain types of important habitats such as wetlands, there are no laws in place to protect lands specifically identified as critical corridors, where wildlife moves between fragmented habitats. Also, while you may see animals on your property, this does not necessarily mean that wildlife is not negatively impacted by the effects of development, including impermeable fences, bright lights, roads, etc.
Information about the Proposed Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor Ordinance Revisions – How will the Ordinance impact my property?
9. Am I prohibited from developing my lot if I’m in a wildlife corridor?
You can still develop your property. This includes building new homes, conducting agricultural and other industrial activities, building additions to existing homes and accessory structures on your property. However, new regulations apply.
Note: Only summary information is provided below. For specific definitions, which are italicized below, ordinance provisions, exemptions, and prohibitions, please consult the ordinance. (Click here)
10. What new regulations would apply?
If your property is within a Habitat Connectivity and Wildlife Corridor, but not within a “Critical Wildlife Passage Area” the following regulations apply to your new development:
- Outdoor night-lighting regulations that address fixture brightness and shielding apply to new development. Some outdoor lights will need to be turned off between 10:00 p.m. and sunrise, or when people are no longer present, except for essential lighting (e.g., those used for walkways), which can be left on.
- Development within a surface water feature or within 200 feet of an identified wildlife crossing may require a discretionary permit. Ministerial permits may be issued solely for the removal of invasive plants. Ministerial permits may be issued solely for the removal of invasive plants. New structures that do not require a building permit pursuant to the existing zoning ordinance or do not require brush clearance for fire prevention purposes, and removal of vegetation associated with the harvesting of commercial agricultural crops, are exempt from the proposed regulations.
- The amount of wildlife impermeable fencing that can be installed is limited. The fencing regulations only apply to lots zoned Open Space (OS) or Agricultural – Exclusive (AE). Examples of impermeable fencing include electric, chain link, welded wire, mesh fence (plastic or wire material), wrought iron, and any fencing with a solid surface such as wood panel fencing or cinderblock). Standard pipe corrals and wire strand (including barbed wire) cattle fencing are not regulated provided they are not higher than 60 inches above grade. Generally, an over-the-counter (ministerial) permit is required if the amount of land enclosed by impermeable fencing is limited to ten percent or less of the gross lot area (e.g., on a 20-acre parcel, two acres can be enclosed with impermeable fencing). A discretionary permit is required only if the amount of land enclosed by impermeable fencing exceeds ten percent. All wildlife impermeable fencing within 50 feet from any dwelling or a principal structure related to agriculture, is exempt from the ten-percent limitation. Additional exemptions include impermeable fencing used to protect commercial agricultural crops.
- The intentional planting of invasive plants is prohibited unless they are being planted as commercial agricultural crops or grown as commercial nursery stock. An “invasive plant” is any species of plant included on the California Invasive Plant Council Invasive Plant Checklist for California Landscaping, as amended. (Click here to see the Invasive Plant Checklist).
11. Do the regulations apply to existing development or development currently permitted?
The regulations generally apply to new structures or uses, or existing structures or uses that require a new ministerial or discretionary permit, or modification to an existing permit.
12. How will these regulations impact agricultural activities?
Most agricultural activities and structures are exempt from the proposed regulations. These exemptions include but are not limited to planting or harvesting of crops or orchards that will be commercially sold; construction and maintenance of driveways or roads internal to a lot; and removal of vegetation associated with the production of agricultural crops on previously cultivated agricultural land that may have been left uncultivated for up to ten years. In addition, fencing necessary to enclose commercially grown plants and plant products, or to protect public health and safety as determined by a public agency, or to enclose a water well or pump house are exempt.
13. Will I be allowed to clear weeds and brush from my property to comply with the mandatory fuel modification zone required by the Ventura County Fire Protection District for fire prevention purposes?
Yes. The proposed regulations will not result in any changes to the existing Ventura County Fire Protection District requirements.
14. Can I still use security lights on my property?
Yes. Security lighting is allowed. Some security lighting, depending on how bright it is, requires motion sensors, so that the bright lights are not constantly illuminated. However, certain types of essential lighting, such as lights used for walkways and building entrances are allowed to stay on.
15 How will this ordinance be enforced?
The regulations will be enforced the same way most other ordinance provisions are enforced. Click here to see information regarding Ventura County Zoning Code Enforcement services.
16. What regulations apply if I want to develop my property and it’s within a Critical Wildlife Passage Area?
The regulations outlined in Question No. 10 above apply within Critical Wildlife Passage Areas (CWPAs). In addition, there are other provisions that require more compact development to help maintain undeveloped areas that serve as linkages for wildlife movement.
The compact siting standards apply only to lots over two acres in all zones except those zoned Commercial and residentially zoned lots within the Simi Hills CWPA, which are exempt.
If the proposed development is to be located on an undeveloped parcel, the first principal structure/use may be located anywhere on the parcel as otherwise authorized by the Non-Coastal Zoning Ordinance. All other subsequently permitted development must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- The development must be located entirely within 100 feet of the centerline of a public road or a publicly accessible trail;
- The development must be located entirely within 100 feet of any portion of, and on the same lot as an existing, legally established structure; or
- The development must be located entirely within 100 feet of and on the same lot as the centerline of an agricultural access road the supports the production of commercially grown agricultural products.
If the proposed development requires a ministerial permit according to Article 5 of the Non-Coasting Zoning Ordinance, such as a single-family house, the development would still be considered ministerial, if at least one of the criteria listed above it met.,/p>
If the development does not qualify for a zoning clearance, (i.e., if none of the criteria listed above are met, or the development already requires a discretionary permit, such as a dog kennel), then a discretionary permit would be required.
17. How does the “Compact Siting Standard” apply if I want to subdivide a developed lot within a CWPA?
The regulations do not preclude subdividing lots.