California Department of Fish and Wildlife

Environmental Review and Permitting

Aspen grove in Sierra Nevada. DFG photo by Jennifer Navicky.
Culvert work. DFG photo by JoAnn Dunn.

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

The Environmental Review and Permitting Programs are responsible to fulfill the mission of the State to encourage the preservation, conservation and maintenance of wildlife resources under the jurisdiction and influence of the State, including the conservation, protection and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species.

  • California Endangered Species Act Permitting (CESA)
    The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) allows CDFW to authorize project proponents to take state- listed threatened, endangered, or candidate species if certain conditions are met. The permitting program administers the incidental take provisions of CESA to ensure regulatory compliance and statewide consistency.
  • California Environmental Quality Act Review (CEQA)
    CDFW consults with lead and responsible agencies and provides the requisite biological expertise to review and comment upon environmental documents and impacts arising from project activities under the California Environmental Quality Act.
  • Lake and Streambed Alteration Program (LSA)
    The Lake and Streambed Alteration Program determines whether an agreement is needed for an activity that will substantually modify a river, steam or lake. If CDFW determines that the activity may substantially adversely affect fish and wildlife resources, a Lake or Streambed Alteration Agreement will be prepared. The Agreement includes reasonable conditions necessary to protect those resources and must comply with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).
  • Coho Habitat Enhancement Leading to Preservation (HELP) Program
    The Coho HELP Program is available through CDFW’s Fisheries Branch to provide streamlined project approval for three types of small stream restoration improvements designed to benefit coho salmon spawning and rearing habitat. Types of projects include large wood augmentation, streambank stabilization/riparian planting and culvert replacement/removal.
  • Voluntary Local Programs
    The purpose of a voluntary local program is to encourage farmers and ranchers engaged in agricultural activities to establish locally designed programs to voluntarily enhance and maintain habitat for endangered and threatened species. These voluntary local programs shall be suited to the particular circumstances of the local agricultural area where each will be implemented. Upon approval of the voluntary local program by the Department, any taking of candidate, threatened or endangered non-fish species incidental to routine and ongoing agricultural activities is not prohibited by the California Endangered Species Act, Division 3, Chapter 1.5 of the Fish and Game Code, provided that the take occurs on a farm or ranch while implementing the management practices specified in the voluntary local program.
  • Safe Harbor Agreements
    CDFW believes it is critical to speciesí recovery to collaborate with private landowners (i.e., individuals, municipalities, timberland owners, and other non-state and non-federal entities) to conserve, protect, restore, and enhance listed species and their habitats. In 2009, the Legislature enacted the California State Safe Harbor Agreement Program Act to encourage landowners to manage their lands voluntarily, by means of state safe harbor agreements approved by CDFW, to benefit endangered, threatened, or candidate species without being subject to additional regulatory restrictions as a result of their conservation efforts.
  • Timberland Conservation Program
    Timber harvesting in California is overseen by multiple state agencies to address the variety of potential impacts logging has on the environment. CDFW may issue permits for road construction across streams and incidental take permits when endangered species habitat is involved.