California is subject to a suite of environmental regulations protecting its biological resources. These regulations occur at the federal, state, regional, and local levels. The major regulations that are encountered in California are summarized below and a link is provided to a detailed description and additional resources for each one.

Federal Regulations

Federal regulations designate the federal governments jurisdiction over biological resources that are on federal lands or are protected by the federal government, such as endangered species.

  • National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) – The NEPA requires federal agencies to review the environmental effects of any proposed actions they are implementing, funding, or otherwise involved in. This includes a section on biological resources, and is one of the main drivers for other federal permits required for the regulations discussed below. Learn more
  • Federal Endangered Species Act – the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) protects endangered plants and animals, and the ecosystems they depend on from further loss or degradation, and provides a process for recovering the species to a self-sustaining level. Learn more
  • Section 404 of the Clean Water Act – Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes a program for regulating dredging or filling of wetlands and Waters of the US.  Learn more
  • Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) – the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918 (MBTA) protects native and migratory birds, there nests, eggs, young, and parts (i.e. feathers) from collection, destruction, hunting, or other harm. Learn more

California Regulations

California also has a host of state regulations that protect its biological resources.

  • California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) – the CEQA is a statute that requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions (and the actions of private individuals seeking permits) and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible. Biological resources are discussed as a section in all CEQA documents. CEQA is the main driver for state permits required under the regulations discussed below. Learn more
  • California Endangered Species Act (CESA) – the CESA states that all native species of fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, invertebrates, and plants, and their habitats, threatened with extinction and those experiencing a significant decline which, if not halted, would lead to a threatened or endangered designation, will be protected or preserved. Learn more
  • California Fish and Game Code – the state Fish and Game Code sets environmental policy, and establishes important agencies and permitting processes. Section 1602 of the California Fish and Game Code protects lakes and streambeds (including riparian vegetation) from impacts from development or other actions through the Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement process. Section 3500 protects nesting birds and raptors, and designates some species as Fully Protect in California, and ultimately untouchable without a permitting process in place to impact a Fully Protected species. Learn more

Regional and Local Regulations

California has numerous regional and local regulations that pertain to biological resources. Regional regulations are typically those that are associated with Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) and Natural Community Conservation Plans (NCCPs). Local regulations are typically associated with cities or counties, and include Master Plans, General Plans, and similar planning documents that regulate local biological resources.