The 30 square miles of open space used to store critical underground water supplies for the residents of Bakersfield and farmers in Kern County also serves another very important function — the Kern Water Bank land is State and Federally designated habitat where sensitive and endangered native plant and animal species are preserved and protected.
For decades, until 1991, approximately 17,000 of the 20,000 acres that comprise the Kern Water Bank were intensively farmed, altering the land’s natural habitat and displacing the species that lived there.
Since the land was developed and operated as a water bank in the mid-1990s, the land has seen the re-establishment of its natural environment with the re-emergence of upland and intermittent wetland habitat. Both of these habitats existed historically throughout much of the San Joaquin Valley.
Implementation of the Kern Water Bank Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (HCP/NCCP) which was executed by the California Department of Fish and Game, United States Fish and Wildlife Service and Kern Water Bank Authority in 1997, was critical to accomplishment of this remarkable environmental task.
The HCP/NCCP established a land management system which provides for the land's primary use as a water bank but also protects and encourages the re-emergence of the native habitat and wildlife.
These permits from the California Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service protect and preserve this exceptional habitat from development through at least 2072.