Cutting Green Tape: San Mateo RCD Collaborates to Shift the Regulatory Paradigm

Kellyx Nelson, executive director for the San Mateo Resource Conservation District (RCD) and board member for the California Association of RCDs, is diving head first into working with the California Natural Resources Agency on their Cutting Green Tape Initiative. It is one of the many ways that Kellyx has been innovating new approaches for more efficient and effective permitting in order to increase the pace and scale of conservation and restoration efforts.

The core premise behind the movement to “cut green tape” is that while the current regulatory paradigm is an effective safeguard from environmental harm, it rewards caution and inaction over action even for beneficial restoration projects. While this mode has served us in the past and continues to be necessary for many types of development projects, it slows down important environmental improvements and threatens acceleration. Given the harm posed by threats like climate change, biodiversity loss, drought, and wildfire, natural resource stewards like RCDs and their partners need to push for a bold approach to protecting and caring for California’s natural resources.

Kellyx’s work to bring attention to the need for efficient and effective permitting started in earnest with San Mateo’s RCD’s participation in the Santa Cruz Mountains Stewardship Network and the California Landscape Stewardship Network. In 2016, the California Landscape Stewardship Network identified permitting and other efficiencies for restoration and stewardship to be a top priority. This led Kellyx to co-author a white paper in 2019 which highlights the issue, and builds on the work of others to propose solutions. Soon after the paper came out, the Secretary of Natural Resources Wade Crowfoot invited the California Landscape Stewardship Network to partner with him on “Cutting Green Tape,” one of the four priorities of his administration. Kellyx chairs that effort for the Network.

As part of Natural Resources Secretary Wade Crowfoot’s Cutting Green Tape Initiative, he has been convening roundtables with principals from agencies and NGOs statewide to develop vision and strategy. Through her participation in the California Landscape Stewardship Network, San Mateo RCD’s Kellyx Nelson has helped facilitate this effort to remove barriers and create a roadmap for government reform and culture change.

The efforts to curb the unintended consequences of “green tape” have been alive in California for decades. The former Secretary of Natural Resources Mary Nichols issued a white paper in 2002 with recommendations, and many solutions have been implemented since then. “We are standing on the shoulders of giants and looking at the next evolution of incentivizing and removing barriers to environmentally beneficial work,” Kellyx said. Specifically, she noted, “Sustainable Conservation has been instrumental in bringing to light successful models for reducing regulatory barriers and advocating for creative and collaborative solutions. This effort will support their extensive work.”

For those who want to learn more, they can check out the white paper on Shifting the Regulatory Paradigm, or Sustainable Conservation’s webpage on permitting efficiency. More resources will be available on the California Landscape Stewardship Network’s website at a later date. If anyone would like to provide input, they can contact Kellyx at