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AB-1183 California Desert Conservation Program.(2021-2022)

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Date Published: 02/18/2021 09:00 PM
AB1183:v99#DOCUMENT


CALIFORNIA LEGISLATURE— 2021–2022 REGULAR SESSION

Assembly Bill
No. 1183


Introduced by Assembly Member Ramos

February 18, 2021


An act to add Chapter 4.4 (commencing with Section 1450) to Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code, relating to desert conservation.


LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL'S DIGEST


AB 1183, as introduced, Ramos. California Desert Conservation Program.
The Wildlife Conservation Law of 1947 establishes the Wildlife Conservation Board in the Department of Fish and Wildlife and requires the board to determine the areas in the state that are most essential and suitable for certain wildlife-related purposes. Under that law, the board may authorize the department to acquire real property, rights in real property, water, or water rights for the benefit of wildlife.
This bill would establish the California Desert Conservation Program under the administration of the board to protect, preserve, and restore desert lands, water, and wildlife by the acquisition of interests and rights in real property and waters, as specified.
Vote: MAJORITY   Appropriation: NO   Fiscal Committee: YES   Local Program: NO  

The people of the State of California do enact as follows:


SECTION 1.

 Chapter 4.4 (commencing with Section 1450) is added to Division 2 of the Fish and Game Code, to read:
CHAPTER  4.4. California Desert Conservation Program

1450.
 This chapter shall be known, and may be cited, as the California Desert Conservation Act.

1451.
 The Legislature finds and declares all of the following:
(a) California’s desert region is valued for its wide-open skies, beautiful vistas, solitude, world-class recreation, history, culture, and thriving plant and wildlife communities. With more than 20 million acres stretching to the Mexican border, the California desert region is the largest remaining relatively intact ecosystem in the lower 48 states and home to iconic species such as desert tortoise, Joshua Trees, golden eagles, desert bighorn sheep, and Mohave ground squirrels.
(b) The California desert region is increasingly threatened by numerous threats, including, but not limited to, climate change, fire, development, invasive species, and resource extraction.
(c) With the creation of the federal Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan and the California Desert Biological Conservation Framework, which was developed between state and federal agencies, local communities, tribes, and other stakeholders, there is a conservation strategy that connects a network of currently protected federal and state lands with areas identified for future conservation and management to ensure that the desert and its natural resources are resilient to the impacts of climate change.
(d) The public interest requires the coordinated protection of desert resources through projects to acquire interests and rights in real property and to improve management on desert lands to protect and restore the natural resources and the recreational and economic benefits they provide.

1452.
 As used in this chapter, unless the context requires otherwise, the following definitions apply:
(a) “Board” means the Wildlife Conservation Board.
(b) “Nonprofit organization” means any private, nonprofit organization that qualifies for exempt status under Section 501(c)(3) of the United States Internal Revenue Code of 1986, and has among its principal charitable purposes the preservation of real property for scientific, historic, educational, recreational, scenic, or open-space values, the protection of the natural environment, or the preservation and enhancement of fisheries and wildlife or their habitat.
(c) “Program” means the California Desert Conservation Program.

1453.
 The board shall establish and administer, through the department, the program pursuant to this chapter and Chapter 4 (commencing with Section 1300). The purpose and goal of the program is to protect, preserve, and restore desert lands, water, and wildlife by the acquisition of interests and rights in real property and waters to the extent deemed necessary to carry out the purposes of the program.

1454.
 The board, pursuant to this chapter, shall approve projects to acquire, preserve, restore, and enhance desert habitat throughout the state consistent with the conservation strategies approved by the department, including regional conservation investment strategies, and the California Desert Biological Conservation Framework, issued December 2016, and coordinate its activities undertaken pursuant to the program with other resource protection activities of the board and other state agencies.

1455.
 The preservation and enhancement of desert habitat shall be a primary concern of the board and the department, and of all state agencies whose activities impact desert habitat, including the Department of Conservation, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Department of Water Resources, the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, the Department of Transportation, the California Conservation Corps, the Energy Commission, the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, and the State Lands Commission.

1456.
 In order to accomplish the purposes of this chapter, the board may authorize the department to do all of the following:
(a) Acquire interests in real property and water rights through gift, purchase, lease, easement, and transfer or exchange of easements, development rights or credits, and other interests in real property.
(b) Coordinate its activities under the program with any governmental program for surplus real property sales in the state.
(c) Award grants and loans to local public agencies, state agencies, federal agencies, and nonprofit organizations for the purposes of the program.
(d) Exercise any authority and comply with the requirements contained in Sections 1348 and 1350, as appropriate, to preserve and enhance desert habitat for purposes of this chapter.

1457.
 Grants to nonprofit organizations, pursuant to Section 1390, for the acquisition of real property or interests therein shall be subject to all of the following conditions:
(a) The purchase price of any interest in real property acquired by the nonprofit organization shall not exceed fair market value as established by an appraisal approved by the board.
(b) The board approves the terms under which the interest in real property is acquired.
(c) The interest in real property acquired pursuant to a grant from the board shall not be used as security for any debt to be incurred by the nonprofit organization unless the board approves the transaction.
(d) The transfer of real property acquired pursuant to a grant shall be subject to the approval of the board and the execution of an agreement between the board and the transferee sufficient to protect the interest of the state.
(e) The state shall have a right of entry and power of termination in and over all interests in real property acquired with state funds, which may be exercised if any essential term or condition of the grant is violated.
(f) If the existence of the nonprofit organization is terminated for any reason, title to all interest in real property acquired with state funds shall immediately vest in the state. However, before that termination, upon approval of the board, another public agency or nonprofit organization may receive title to all or a portion of that interest in real property by recording its acceptance of title in writing. Any deed or other instrument of conveyance whereby real property is being acquired by a nonprofit organization pursuant to this section shall be recorded and shall set forth the executory interest or right of entry on the part of the state.