Beale Air Force Base, situated in the northern Sacramento Valley of California,
is the home of numerous highly sensitive vernal pool wetlands.
The airbase has a long history of addressing wetland regulatory requirements.
Complying with those requirements can be burdensome
and expensive, and it can complicate not only meeting the military mission but
detract from larger base conservation efforts. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
has outlined an ecosystem-based approach to addressing these requirements
known as Special Area Management Planning (SAMP) that we successfully employed
We addressed samp through the development of the Beale afb Habitat Conservation
and Management Plan (HCMP) that provides a multi-species approach
to natural resources conservation by protecting large tracts of land that provide
habitat for many species of plants and wildlife. The plan also provides mitigation
plans for adverse effects on natural resources associated with implementation of
the Beale afb General Plan and provides guidelines for Endangered Species Act
and Clean Water Act compliance for future projects.
How it Supports Beale's Mission
The base's general plan identifies areas that are slated for future development.
These areas are called “development areas.” Sensitive natural resources on the
base are mainly vernal pools (seasonal wetlands) and their associated wildlife
species, and those that will be affected in the development areas have been identified.
The hcmp defines what the base will do to mitigate for all wetlands that
will be disturbed in these development areas in support of Beale's mission. At this
point, all mitigation can be accommodated on the base's property. The mitigation
consists of “conservation areas,” where preservation, management, and
restoration of wetlands and wildlife habitat will occur. Conservation areas comprise
5,300 total acres, which is roughly 23 percent of the base's property.
Preservation: As a tradeoff for impacts in development areas, Beale has set aside
existing high-quality wetlands in conservation areas throughout the base. These
areas will only be used for future activities that are already in progress (such as
drinking water well maintenance) and other activities that are compatible with
grassland and seasonal wetland management (such as cattle grazing and prescribed
- The main vernal pool preservation area is on the west side of the base to the
north of North Beale Road. The vernal pools in this area are more likely to have
federally listed crustaceans (vernal pool fairy shrimp and vernal pool tadpole
shrimp) and a larger diversity of native plant species.
- The riparian preservation area along Dry Creek and Best Slough will also preserve
approximately 720 acres of riparian (streamside) forest. This preservation
will not serve as mitigation for wetlands, but instead will provide protection of
the area of the base that has the highest biodiversity (i.e., many plant and wildlife
species occur there), as well as providing habitat for a federally threatened species
Management: “Management areas” are those containing high-quality wetlands
and threatened and endangered species habitat, but these wetlands are in areas
identified for possible (but not likely) development in the future. Any development
that would occur in those areas would be done as a last resort meaning
that there are no other areas that are appropriate for that type of specific activity.
Therefore, these areas will be managed in the same way as the preservation
areas, unless a special development project is identified for these areas.
restoration: Also included in the hcmp are “restoration areas” where the construction
of approximately forty acres of vernal pools and other aquatic areas
will occur. These regions previously supported the vegetation types that will be
restored there, but they had been degraded and destroyed by past agricultural and
military practices before most environmental laws existed.
The planning that occurred during the development of the Habitat Conservation
and Management Plan now serves as a basis for obtaining large-scale permits
from the appropriate regulatory agencies. Once these permits are completed, the
development process at Beale will be expedited in support of the mission, while
still assuring that Beale's precious natural resources are protected.