Bluhon Group | Balancing Ag and Biodiversity

Balancing Ag and Biodiversity

Contra Costa County, Community Development Agency


Bluhon facilitated stakeholder negotiations for a framework agreement to guide development of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for a 227,000-acre area in eastern Alameda and Contra Costa counties in the San Francisco Bay Area. Regional agencies selected the area due to its relative high level of biodiversity (a transitional area of coastal and interior habitats and northern habitat for the endangered San Joaquin Kit Fox) and because it supports a diversity of land uses, often seen to be in conflict, including agricultural, wind energy, public open space, and urban development. The task force comprised twenty-four representatives and one alternate from diverse interest groups – ranching, environmental, real estate, property rights, regional parks – and municipal, state, and federal resource agencies including the California Department of Fish aasdft to agency staff and the task force steering committee. He assisted in process design, plenary session debriefing, stakeholder communications, and meeting agenda and meeting summary preparation. Two technical consultants – Jones & Stokes, Inc. and Economic & Planning Systems, Inc. – provided biological baseline, mapping, and economic data. Bluhon assisted the task force in defining and ratifying joint fact-finding principles to guide development, presentation, and interpretation of scientific data.  He also facilitated the task force in identifying and ratifying a roster of scientific experts to serve as a neutral technical committee.


The task force convened for eighteen plenary sessions over two years. The process resulted in a near-unanimous framework agreement to set core objectives for the subsequent HCP including the study area, study goals and principles, participating stakeholder groups, and policy intent. The Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors accepted the framework agreement and the recommended that the Department of Fish & Game and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service form a joint powers authority to manage the HCP. Study area municipalities, the county, and state and federal agencies ratified the final HCP and implementing ordinances in 2007 and 2008.