Environmental Review and Permitting


California’s fish and wildlife depend upon the quality and quantity of habitat including lands, waters, and other environmental factors necessary for survival.

CDFW’s Environmental Review and Permitting Programs implement sections of the California Fish and Game Code, California Code of Regulations, and other statutes and regulations. These Programs help fulfill CDFW’s mission to manage California’s diverse fish, wildlife, and plant resources, and the habitats upon which they depend, for their ecological values and for their use and enjoyment by the public.

 California Endangered Species Act (CESA) Permits

CESA authorizes CDFW to permit project proponents to take state-listed threatened, endangered or candidate species if certain conditions are met. The CESA Program administers the incidental take provisions of CESA, including Incidental Take Permits, Consistency Determinations, and Safe Harbor Agreements to ensure regulatory compliance and statewide consistency.

 California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Review

CEQA requires public agencies to disclose and mitigate environmental impacts of discretionary projects they approve. Most often, CDFW acts as a Trustee and/or Responsible Agency and provides the requisite biological expertise to review and comment upon CEQA environmental documents prepared by another Lead Agency. CDFW may also act as Lead Agency.

 Habitat Restoration and Enhancement Act (HREA) Approvals

The HREA established a process for CDFW to approve small-scale, voluntary habitat restoration projects that meet specific eligibility requirements. Projects approved by CDFW, pursuant to HREA, will not require additional permits from CDFW, such as an LSA agreement or CESA permit.

 Lake and Streambed Alteration (LSA) Program

Fish and Game Code Section 1602 requires any entity to notify CDFW before beginning any activity that may substantially divert or obstruct the natural flow of, or substantially change or use any material from the bed, channel, or bank of any river, stream, or lake. If CDFW determines that the activity may substantially adversely affect fish and wildlife resources, an LSA Agreement will be prepared.

 Suction Dredge Permits

The use of vacuum or suction dredge equipment, otherwise known as suction dredging, is currently prohibited and unlawful throughout California. Under existing state law, CDFW is currently prohibited from issuing any permits for suction dredging in California under the Fish and Game Code.

 Timberland Conservation Program

Forest practices on private timberlands in California are overseen by multiple state agencies to address the variety of potential impacts timber operations have on the environment. CDFW often issues permits for building roads across streams and for water drafting from streams and lakes. Occasionally, CDFW issues incidental take permits when timber operations impact threatened and endangered species.

 Western Joshua Tree Conservation

The Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act (WJTCA) is landmark legislation passed in July 2023 that establishes new permitting systems to authorize both incidental take of western Joshua tree and the trimming and removal of live and dead western Joshua trees, creates a fund to acquire high quality western Joshua tree habitat, and directs CDFW to develop a conservation plan with input from governmental agencies, California Native American tribes, and the public.

Habitat Conservation Planning Branch
1010 Riverside Parkway, West Sacramento, CA 95605
Mailing: P.O. Box 944209, Sacramento, CA 94244-2090