California State Wildlife Action Plan 2015 Update

California’s 2015 State Wildlife Action Plan (SWAP 2015) is a comprehensive, statewide plan for conserving the state’s fish and wildlife and their natural habitats. The Plan identifies and prioritizes at-risk species and habitats across the state, and provides conservation strategies to help protect and conserve these species. The first update of California’s 2005 SWAP integrates climate change impacts and adaptation planning. The updated SWAP analyzes the impacts of climate change on ecosystems, uses climate change vulnerability as a criterion for the most vulnerable target species, and offers conservation strategies that address impacts of climate change. The Plan is meant to identify best management practices for conserving the state’s most vulnerable wildlife species - although it is not a regulatory document.

SWAP 2015 was developed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), with the intention of a collaborative framework involving other agencies and partners. CDFW describes that many desirable conservation actions identified under SWAP 2015 are beyond it’s jurisdiction, and determined that more detailed coordination plans are needed in line with and beyond the recommendations presented in SWAP 2015. Called “companion plans,” these sector-specific plans were created collaboratively with partners and will be instrumental in implementing SWAP 2015. The nine sector-specific companion plans provide recommendations and key best practices for implementation and collaboration within each sector, including: Transportation, Agriculture, Consumptive and Recreational Uses, Energy, Forest and Rangelands, Land Use Planning, Marine, Tribal Lands, and Water Management. 

The focus of SWAP 2015 is on species deemed to be most rare, imperiled, and in need of conservation - called the Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN). Regional teams developed criteria and evaluated species, resulting in a list of over 1,000 species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, fish, birds, mammals, and plants that are considered SGCN. Species identified by the CDFW as being highly vulnerable to climate change was one of the criteria to determine the list of SGCN. 

Habitat types with high levels of species richness, high counts of rare and endemic species, and high counts of vulnerable species (including declining and at-risk species and SGCN), were then prioritized for selection as potential terrestrial conservation targets. After identifying over 1,000 SGCN, developing the SWAP based on a comprehensive assessment of individual species was not feasible; so the conservation targets in SWAP 2015 were selected because they represent habitats for the most SGCN, as well as meet other criteria (see Appendix D). The ecosystem categories used in SWAP 2015 are terrestrial, freshwater aquatic, and marine habitats. 

Climate change considerations have been given weight during development of SWAP 2015 specifically in the following ways:

  • adopting climate vulnerability as a criterion for selecting SGCN;
  • incorporating climate forecasts when assessing the ecological conditions of conservation targets;
  • conducting climate change vulnerability analyses for native species and vegetation in California; and

SWAP 2015 describes the key conservation factors crucial to the sustainability of California ecosystems, and for each geographic province provides specific conservation strategies that will either reduce negative impacts to ecological systems or enhance the state’s natural environment.

For each conservation unit in California, SWAP 2015 developed at least one conservation project, consisting of a set of conservation strategies to improve conditions of a conservation target. Table 1.5-1 provides a summary of priority conservation targets selected for conservation units organized by province.


As mandated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in order to participate in the federally authorized State and Tribal Wildlife Grants Program,  the California Department of Fish and Wildlife revises the State Wildlife Action Plan every 10 years. Approval of the action plan opens up millions of dollars in federal grant funding for programs that benefit at-risk species such as the Sierra Nevada bighorn sheep, coho salmon and redwoods, among others. CDFW has received approximately $37 million in federal support for the state’s wildlife conservation activities through the SWG program from 2005 through 2014.




Publication Date: February 2016

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