Partner Spotlight: California Natural Resources Agency

The reach and impact of the California Natural Resources Agency on conservation spans 25 entities—it includes the Department of Conservation, the Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the California Conservation Corps, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Water Resources, CALFED Bay-Delta Program, ten state conservancies (including the Sierra Nevada Conservancy and the Coastal Conservancy), and seventeen regulatory boards and commissions (including the Wildlife Conservation Board), three councils, and two museums. Their mission is to “restore, protect and manage the state’s natural, historical and cultural resources for current and future generations using creative approaches and solutions based on science, collaboration and respect for all the communities and interests involved.” The current Secretary for Natural Resources is Wade Crowfoot, who was appointed by Governor Newsom in 2019.

Their current priorities are protecting biodiversity to combat the mass extinction crisis, “cutting green tape” by reducing permitting barriers for conservation projects, building climate resilience, and improving access to the state’s outdoor spaces and cultural sites for all Californians.

One of their recent accomplishments is publishing the draft Water Resilience Portfolio, an interagency report authored by the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture.

Created from data gathered from 20 public listening sessions and more than 100 substantive comment letters, the report covers the gamut of water management: water quality; water needs for communities, economy, and the environment; the anticipated impacts of climate change; the single tunnel project for the Bay Delta; providing clean drinking water; and the state government’s water policies, programs, and investments.

Resource Conservation Districts are called out as technical assistance providers who can “support farmers and ranchers with education about healthy soils, manure management, water and nutrient efficiency practices, drought adaptation, and land management changes” (pg. 22) and “encourage enhancement of both forest and water management” (pg. 21).

Karen Buhr, Executive Director for the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts (CARCD), explains: “As non-regulatory government agencies with local knowledge and on-the-ground experience, RCDs are the perfect entity to help the goals laid out in the Water Resilience Portfolio succeed. We appreciate the care and work that the California Natural Resources Agency, the California Environmental Protection Agency, and the California Department of Food and Agriculture to better understand the water management challenges in this state.”

The draft Portfolio featured prominently in the Governor’s 2020-21 draft budget which came out in January: $35 million ongoing and $103 million of one-time allocations from the General Fund and 62 percent of the proposed $4.75 billion Climate Resilience Bond (marked for the November 2020 ballot) dedicated to programs that align with priorities identified in the Portfolio.

After another round of comments that ended earlier this month, a final version of the Water Resilience Portfolio is slated to be released soon.