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Western Joshua Tree Conservation Efforts and Permitting
Western Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is an iconic species in California that is both ecologically and culturally important. Western Joshua trees occur across a large portion of California’s desert. Yet, species distribution models suggest that by the end of the 21st century, much of the species’ range may no longer be viable habitat.
The Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act (WJTCA) was passed in July 2023 to conserve western Joshua tree and its habitat while supporting the state’s renewable energy and housing priorities.
The WJTCA creates a streamlined permitting framework for certain development activities and collects mitigation fees for the acquisition and conservation of western Joshua tree habitat and other actions to conserve western Joshua Tree. This will offset the impacts of permitted projects that negatively impact western Joshua trees and help to conserve the species on a landscape scale.
The WJTCA authorizes the CDFW to:
- Permit the trimming and removal of hazardous or dead western Joshua trees.
- Permit the incidental take of western Joshua trees provided the permittee meets certain conditions.
- Enter into an agreement with a county or city to delegate limited authority to issue the permits mentioned above, provided certain conditions are met.
Additionally, the WJTCA directs CDFW to develop a conservation plan for western Joshua tree by the end of 2024.
Learn more about
Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act Mitigation Fees Map
Click the below image to view this interactive map(opens in new tab) that shows the area (in blue) which qualifies for reduced Mitigation Fees for impact to Western Joshua Trees (Yucca brevifolia) in California as defined in the California Department of Fish and Game Code (Section 1927).
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Conservation Act Summary
The Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act (WJTCA) prohibits the importation, export, take, possession, purchase, or sale of any western Joshua tree in California unless authorized by CDFW.
The act authorizes CDFW to issue permits for the incidental take of one or more western Joshua trees if the permittee meets certain conditions. Permittees may pay specified fees in lieu of conducting mitigation activities. The act also authorizes CDFW to issue permits for the removal of dead western Joshua trees and the trimming of live western Joshua trees under certain circumstances.
Pursuant to the WJTCA, CDFW may enter into an agreement with any county or city to delegate limited authority to permit the taking of a western Joshua tree associated with developing single-family residences, multifamily residences, accessory structures, and public works projects. CDFW may similarly enter into an agreement with any county or city to delegate limited authority to permit the removal of dead western Joshua trees and the trimming of live western Joshua trees.
Under the act, all in-lieu fees collected will be deposited into the Western Joshua Tree Conservation Fund for appropriation to CDFW solely for the purposes of acquiring, conserving, and managing western Joshua tree conservation lands and completing other activities to conserve the western Joshua tree.
Additionally, the act requires CDFW to develop and implement a western Joshua tree conservation plan in collaboration with governmental agencies, California Native American Tribes, and the public. The complete draft conservation plan must be presented no later than December 31, 2024 at a public meeting of the Fish and Game Commission for its review and approval. CDFW must also develop annual reports assessing the conservation status of the western Joshua tree and submit them to the commission and the State Legislature no later than January 1 of each year, starting in 2025.
In March 2022, CDFW prepared a status review report for western Joshua tree evaluating whether listing the species as endangered or threatened under the California Endangered Species Act would be warranted. The WJTCA requires CDFW to prepare an updated status review report by January 1, 2033, unless the Fish and Game Commission directs CDFW to complete the update sooner, and directs the Fish and Game Commission to consider the effectiveness of the conservation measures of the WJTCA, the updated status review report, and other factors before deciding whether the current petition to list the western Joshua tree under the California Endangered Species Act is warranted.
Full Western Joshua Tree Conservation Act Language (PDF)(opens in new tab)