California Assembly Bill AB2344
Restoring California’s Wildlife Connectivity
Assembly Bill No. 2344
An act to add Article 3.8 (commencing with Section 158) to Chapter 1 of Division 1 of, and to repeal Section 158.5 of, the Streets and Highways Code, relating to fish and wildlife.
[ Approved by Governor September 30, 2022. Filed with Secretary of State September 30, 2022. ]
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
AB 2344, Friedman. Wildlife connectivity: transportation projects.
Under existing law, the Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) has jurisdiction over the conservation, protection, and management of fish, wildlife, native plants, and habitat necessary for biologically sustainable populations of those species. Existing law authorizes DFW to approve compensatory mitigation credits for wildlife connectivity actions taken under specified programs.
Existing law vests the Department of Transportation (Caltrans) with full possession and control of the state highway system. Existing law requires Caltrans to complete assessments of potential barriers to anadromous fish prior to commencing any project using state or federal transportation funds and requires projects to be constructed without presenting barriers to fish passage.
This bill would require Caltrans, in consultation with DFW and other appropriate agencies, to establish an inventory of connectivity needs on the state highway system where the implementation of wildlife passage features could reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions or enhance wildlife connectivity, as specified. The bill would require Caltrans, no later than July 1, 2024, to develop and publish the inventory and a list of funded transportation projects with wildlife passage features that address wildlife connectivity needs and would require Caltrans to update the inventory and the project list at least once every 2 years.
The bill would require Caltrans, for any project on the state highway system in a connectivity area that adds a traffic lane or that has the potential to significantly impair wildlife connectivity, to perform an assessment, in consultation with DFW, to identify potential wildlife connectivity barriers and any needs for improved permeability, as specified. The bill would require Caltrans to submit the assessment to DFW and, if any structural barrier to wildlife connectivity exists or will be added by the project for target species in the connectivity area, would require the implementing agency to remediate barriers to wildlife connectivity in conjunction with the project. The bill would authorize Caltrans to use compensatory mitigation credits to satisfy these remediation requirements if DFW concurs with the use of those credits.
The bill would establish the Transportation Wildlife Connectivity Remediation Program, to be administered by Caltrans, in consultation with DFW, for the purposes of improving wildlife connectivity across transportation systems in connectivity areas. As part of the program, the bill would require Caltrans, upon appropriation by the Legislature, to develop a program of projects that support the remediation and improvement of wildlife connectivity across transportation systems, as specified. The bill would require Caltrans, in concurrence with DFW, to develop guidelines for the implementation of the program following one or more public workshops and an opportunity for the public to provide written comments. The bill would authorize Caltrans to receive compensatory mitigation credits for the implementation of a project in the program if DFW concurs with the creation of those credits.
The bill would require the department to update appropriate design guidance, including the Highway Design Manual, by July 1, 2025, to incorporate design concepts for wildlife passage features and related standard plans and specifications as appropriate.
The bill would require Caltrans to submit a report to specified committees of the Legislature by July 1, 2028, that includes recommendations for the provisions of the bill and describes the status of its progress in accomplishing the requirements of the bill.
Transportation Projects and Wildlife Connectivity
- The bill mandates Caltrans, in collaboration with DFW, to create an inventory of wildlife connectivity needs on the state highway system, aiming to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.
- Caltrans is required to assess projects in connectivity areas, identifying potential barriers and needs for improved permeability. If barriers exist, they must be addressed in conjunction with the project.
- The Transportation Wildlife Connectivity Remediation Program is established for improving wildlife connectivity across transportation systems.
- Caltrans must update design guidance to incorporate concepts for wildlife passage features by July 1, 2025.
- A report on the bill’s implementation, including progress and recommendations, is due to the Legislature by July 1, 2028.
Legislative Counsel’s Digest
The bill aims to protect and enhance wildlife connectivity in transportation infrastructure, addressing the adverse impacts on wildlife caused by roads and highways. It emphasizes the importance of mitigating climate change effects and reducing wildlife-vehicle collisions. The state commits to conserving biodiversity and recognizes the role of the Department of Fish and Wildlife as the trustee agency for fish and wildlife resources. The bill establishes a comprehensive approach to wildlife connectivity, requiring assessments, inventories, and remediation programs.
Supplemental Articles: “California Prioritizes Key Locations to Improve Wildlife Connectivity” & “A New Bridge is in the Works”