A conservation plan developed to protect natural habitat and wildlife in Orange County in exchange for accelerated freeway improvement projects was finalized in spring 2017.
Years in the making and requiring cooperation from multiple entities, the Final Natural Community Conservation Plan/Habitat Conservation Plan ensures more than 1,300 acres of OCTA wilderness preserves will remain forever protected from development. In addition, the conservation plan provides a path forward for OCTA's OC Go, also known as Measure M, Freeway Environmental Mitigation Program. The program allocates funds to acquire land and fund habitat restoration projects in exchange for streamlined project approvals for the 13 OC Go freeway improvement projects. Acquired properties are purchased and permanently preserved as open space. Funded restoration projects restore preserved open space lands to their native habitat and include the removal of invasive plant species.
The conservation plan demonstrates that sufficient conservation is being provided to address the biological mitigation related to the freeway projects; an accompanying agreement streamlines the environmental permitting process and will help freeway projects reach completion faster.
"This is an important effort to protect our environment that would not have been possible without the leadership of the OCTA board and the strong involvement of environmental and community groups," said state Sen. Pat Bates, R-Laguna Niguel, who previously served as an OCTA board member and led the Environmental Oversight Committee. "I think that OCTA has created an ideal model for the mitigation of transportation projects that can be followed statewide."