Local meeting offers chance to speak on Foothills plan

This map includes the 18-million-acre 'study area' along with the four 'focal areas' that include San Benito Hills.

Staff members from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be making seven stops in California cities to discuss the California Foothills Legacy Area now that the draft environmental assessment is available.
In a press statement, a public affairs officer described the proposal as such:
“The proposed CFLA easement program would provide a new tool to help ranching families stay on their land while permanently protecting a portion of this important resource for wildlife.”
The program is voluntary to landowners in the proposed area, which includes foothills throughout the San Joaquin Valley, which includes segments of San Benito County. The FWS employees said no new regulatory requirements will be placed on lands within or outside the program area. Ranches within three foothills areas bordering the San Joaquin Valley could be eligible for the program, depending on which alternative is selected.
The easements encourage the continuation of ranching operations but would limit certain types of developments that could take place in the future.
In Sept. 2012, San Benito County supervisors directed county staff members to draft a resolution opposing the program. Property owners and attorneys had expressed opposition to the program at that time.
Staff members will visit Hollister Aug. 9, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the Hollister Community Center, 300 West St., to gather public input on the draft environmental assessment. The document is available for review at http://go.usa.gov/YMWQ.
Local residents who cannot attend the meeting can offer comments vie email to [email protected] Comments must be received by Sept. 15 to be considered for development of the final proposal. For additional information, call Mark Pelz, chief of refuge planning, at (916)414-6500.

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