The Monterey County Regional Conservation Investment Strategy

SB 1 Adaptation Planning Grant: Final Case Study


SummaryImage of Monterey County, aerial view

The Monterey County Regional Conservation Investment Strategy (Strategy) assesses the vulnerability of species and habitat to climate change related stressors (drought, wildfire, and landslides, etc.); develops conservation strategies to improve resiliency from the identified stressors; and defines a framework to finance the implementation of these conservation strategies as compensatory mitigations for new transportation improvements.  Eligible conservation strategies both directly and indirectly contribute to the climate resiliency of Monterey County’s transportation infrastructure, including wildlife crossings, wetlands restoration, and habitat acquisition and conservation.  Once finalized, the strategy can be used to develop mitigation credit agreements to facilitate advance mitigation planning in advance of transportation project impacts, resulting in conservation actions that have greater benefit and expedited project delivery.

To assist with the development of mitigation credit agreements, the Transportation Agency and AECOM (the project consultant team) also prepared two additional reports to accompany the strategy. The first is a climate change vulnerability assessment that analyzes the potential for regional transportation infrastructure to be impacted by sea-level rise and wildfires. The purpose of this report is to highlight how implementing the conservation actions included in the strategy could reduce the likelihood of wildfires, protect against sea-level rise, and also produce co-benefits to transportation infrastructure. The second report is a transportation mitigation needs assessment that estimates the potential habitat impacts the agency's regional transportation projects could have and what types of mitigations may be needed. All of the agency's projects will undergo environmental review, but this report highlights the potential habitat needs in the future and allows the agency to begin advance conservation planning efforts and seek grant funds.

The county also prepared a compendium web portal that includes the strategy information in a searchable format, with specific pages dedicated to the focal species and habitat and the conservation strategies that can support them. The web portal can be found at:

The project began in january 2019 and the final monterey county regional conservation investment strategy was approved by the Transportation Agency Board Of Directors on April 28, 2021.

The Strategy is a bold vision of future conservation in Monterey County, in which widespread conservation and habitat enhancement actions will sustain and enhance ecological resources, biodiversity, and ecological processes and functions, and will promote resilience for the benefit of biological communities, watersheds, geographically unique areas, and other special-status or non-special-status species. The strategy is a voluntary, non-binding, non-regulatory regional plan for species and habitat conservation that:

  • Guides regional conservation of focal species and sensitive habitats through strategic, scientifically grounded actions and investments;
  • Establishes conservation priorities, goals, objectives, and actions; and
  • Describes and promotes conservation investment that will contribute to species and habitat conservation including:
    • Land acquisition and habitat protection,
    • Habitat enhancement, restoration, and establishment,
    • Creek and river restoration, and
    • Habitat connectivity and linkage enhancement.

A primary strength of the Strategy is the significant co-benefits of adaptation work that will be provided, including to public health and safety, agricultural lands, natural ecosystems, air quality, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.  The Strategy will accomplish the following specific objectives:

  • Identify locations for habitat and agricultural mitigation for transportation projects, to create more meaningful land preservation and improve the resource agency approval process;
  • Identify adaptation strategies to remedy identified climate related vulnerabilities;
  • Advance the planning of specific climate adaptation projects;
  • Provide benefits to disadvantaged and vulnerable communities.

The Strategy supports the objectives of executive order S-13-08 by planning for climate impacts through coordination with the state climate adaptation strategy, including:

  • Identifying land that could change significantly during this century due to climate change with a plan developed for expanding existing protected areas (page 8);
  • Establishing a system of sustainable habitat reserves (page 57); and
  • Incorporating climate change vulnerability assessment planning tools, policies, and strategies into existing transportation and investment decisions, with a near-term action of developing and incorporating climate change mitigation and adaptation policies and strategies throughout regional planning efforts (page 133).

Monterey County has several large areas designated as disadvantaged communities using the definitions in both CalEnviroscreen version 3.0 and Assembly Bill 1550.  The Monterey County Regional Conservation Investment Strategy would provide significant public health and safety co-benefits to these communities through the protection of natural environments.  Many climate mitigation strategies offer significant public health co-benefits.

Lead Agency And Partnerships

The Transportation Agency for Monterey County is the lead for the strategy delivery, coordinating partnerships, conducting public outreach, and administering the caltrans adaptation grant.  Diverse stakeholder involvement and feedback were instrumental in developing the strategy. The main goals of the engagement process were to solicit input and ideas from stakeholders and the public, collect feedback on key deliverables, and integrate the comments and feedback into the strategy as appropriate. In addition, the stakeholder involvement and public outreach process sought to foster buy-in and ongoing support among participants. Input was requested from tribal entities, ranchers and farmers; federal, state, and local agencies with land use authority, including the cities and counties in and adjacent to the strategy area; resource districts; conservation organizations; and other non-governmental organizations.

The California Department of Transportation also requested approval of the Monterey County strategy in accordance with Fish & Game Code, § 1852, subdivision (a) and consistent with streets and highways code section 800.6(j).


With the passage of Senate Bill 1 and Measure X, Monterey County’s self-help transportation sales tax measure, the TAMC has habitat mitigation needs for numerous regional transportation improvements in corridors that are highly constrained by environmental factors, with some projects lying within the coastal zone. This presents an opportunity to develop the Monterey County strategy to identify conservation strategies with co-benefits to transportation infrastructure climate resiliency and public safety, and then implement those strategies as advance mitigation for the transportation improvements.

Engagement Process

The steering committee included representatives from the California Department of Transportation District 5, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Headquarters, California Department of Fish and Wildlife Region 4, and The Nature Conservancy. A broader stakeholder committee was also established that included local conservation organizations, such as the Elkhorn Slough Foundation and the Big Sur Land Trust, and other public agencies, such as the Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission, Association Of Monterey Bay Area Governments, and the United States Fish And Wildlife Service.

The primary mechanisms for engaging stakeholders during development of the strategy were steering committee meetings, stakeholder committee meetings held in Salinas, California, continual update of the project website with draft documents and meeting materials, stakeholder reviews of deliverables, webinars and virtual meetings, one-on-one stakeholder interviews and conversations, and presentations to the Transportation Agency Of Monterey County’s Board Of Directors. See the table below for a listing of engagement dates.














Climate Impact Area

The Strategy Area extends to the jurisdictional boundaries of Monterey County, in Central California on the Pacific Coast. The strategy area is composed of important natural features, including the Pacific Ocean, Monterey Bay, the Santa Lucia and Gabilan Ranges, and the Carmel And Salinas Valleys. The county boundary was selected to reduce land use authority conflicts, and to minimize overlap or conflicts with other strategy areas, while maximizing jurisdictional partnerships and regional conservation efforts.

The Strategy assesses the vulnerability of species and habitat to climate change related stressors in the Central Coast, including drought, wildfire, sea-level rise, and secondary impacts such as landslides.

Funding Source

Fiscal Year 2018/19 Caltrans Adaptation Planning Grant


Measure X




Research And Data

Sources used in the plan include, but are not limited to:

  • Local city and county jurisdictions general plan, zoning and land use GIS data
  • Williamson Act GIS Data
  • Department Of Conservation Farmland Mapping And Monitoring Program (FMMP)
  • Caltrans District 5 Wildlife Corridor And Habitat Connectivity Project
  • Caltrans Highway And Infrastructure Gis Layers
  • USGS National Hydrography Data (NHD)
  • California Protected Areas Database (CPAD)
  • Central Coast Wetlands Group Monterey Bay Sea Level Rise Adaptation Study
  • Pajaro River Watershed Flood Prevention Authority


The following major challenges were addressed through this project:

  • Coordination with different stakeholders and regulatory agencies;
  • Identifying appropriate conservation goals, objectives, and strategies for impacts to working lands; and
  • Developing a methodology to create mitigation credit agreements from the conservation strategies identified in the strategy.


The completed monterey county regional conservation investment strategy provides the following:

  1. Inventories available data sources for species and habitat, and describes the existing wildlife connectivity;
  2. Develops a climate change vulnerability assessment of species and habitat to climate change related stressors and pressures, and develops a separate climate change vulnerability assessment of monterey county regional transportation infrastructure;
  3. Develops conservation strategies to improve resiliency from the identified stressors;
  4. Identifies mitigation needs of regional transportation improvements; and
  5. Prepares for implementation by identifying a process for compensatory mitigation.


The project will be utilizing the California Department Of Fish And Wildlife’s regional conservation investment strategy guidelines, and as such, can be replicated by any community or region.

Further Information

Michael Zeller
Principal Transportation Planner
Transportation Agency For Monterey County