Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs)

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Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are required planning documents for entities interested in applying for federal Incidental Take Permits (ITPs). HCPs are associated with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), which protects threatened and endangered species throughout the nation. The goal of HCPs is to allow economic growth without compromising long-term species survival. More than 430 HCPs have been approved nationwide, and many more are in the planning stage [1].

HCP Requirements

Under section 10 of the ESA, HCPs must meet six requirements before ITPs can be issued. [2] The requirements are:

  • All take must be incidental
  • Impacts are to be mitigated and minimized as much as possible
  • Unexpected problems will be addressed by adequate funding
  • Take cannot reduce likelihood of survival and recovery of species
  • Applicant is required to ensure other federal regulations will be implemented
  • Federal regulators must be certain HCPs can and will be executed

HCP Process

The three phases of HCPS are development, formal permit processing, and post-permit issuance:

HCP Development [3]

The first step is determining who will be holding the permit. States, local governments, corporations,businesses, and private land owners are allowed to apply for incidental take permits. The permittee will be responsible for overseeing the HCP implementation. The applicant will then establish a steering committee that represents the affected interest and will serve in an advisory role in the development of the HCP. It is recommended that applicants invite the Services as technical advisers on steering committees. The next step is to list which species will be protected by the HCP. Generally, numerous species are listed in the HCP, including non-listed species, because it can protect the applicant from delays in the future. However, this will result in a complicated HCP that will take time to develop.

Under section 10 (a)(2)(A), the conservation plan must include the following information:

  • Impacts from the result of the proposed taking of species
  • Measures to monitor, minimize, and mitigate the impacts; funding for these measures and contingency plans for unforeseen complications
  • Alternatives actions that would not have resulted in take of species and why those actions were not pursued
  • Additional measures the Service may require as necessary

To determine the likely effects of the project the applicant must also delineate the HCP boundary, collect and synthesize biological data for listed species in the HCP, list the activities within the boundary that will result in take, and quantify take levels. A mitigation plan will then be developed by the applicant.

Formal Permit Processing [4]

There is no set time frame for the processing time of applications. If an HCP is considered to be low-impact it should take less than 3 months. If an HCP requires an environmental assessment it will take roughly half a year and if a environmental impact statement is required then it will take up to a year. These time frames are from the submission of a complete application to the issuance of a take permit. Delays are possible if there are legitimate reasons like project controversies or workload problems.

Under section 7 of the ESA, the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) are required to consult on permit issuance. The purpose of this consultation is to ensure that any action by the Federal government does not threaten the survival of listed species. The final report of the consultation is referred to as a biological opinion. Biological opinions must include the information which the opinion was based on, discussion of the effects that the proposed actions will have on species and critical habitat, and the final word on whether the actions will jeopardize or not jeopardize species and their habitat.

There will also be a 30-day commenting period for the public. There will be notices made to the public and interested parties when documents become available. Informational meetings can be held to answer any questions about the proposed HCP. If a permit is issued any member of the public that disagrees can file for objection by submitting a paper with valid reasons as to why the permit should not be issued.

Post-Permit Issuance [4]

A permit that has been issued will include the list of species, authorized activities, and location where those activities will take place. Additional requirements may be issued with the permit such as monitoring and reporting, which will ensure that conditions are being met. Each permit must also have a specified expiration date and it can be renewed as long as the applicant files for renewal at least 30 days before permit expiration.

HCP Criticisms

HCPs are inherently controversial because they attempt to compromise between landowners and conservationists. Conflicts, including delayed agreements and lawsuits (see Court Cases Involving HCPs section), have arisen as a result. General criticisms of HCPs include:[5][6]

  • unable to adequately 'bridge the gap' between landowners and conservationists
  • creation takes too long for effective action
  • public involvement is inconsistent
  • not enough transparency/accountability

Criticisms from conservationists about HCPs include:

  • insufficient protection of species
  • not founded on robust enough science
  • improvements focus on incentivizing landowners rather than species protection
  • "no surprises" clause burdens the public rather than landowners
  • lack of federal mechanism to identify and refit ineffective HCPs
  • absence of adaptive management requirement

Criticisms from landowners concerning HCPs include:

  • expensive and time-consuming
  • substandard economic incentives

Court Cases Involving HCPs

Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Ctr. v. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

A proposed logging project came to a halt when a federal district court in California negated a habitat conservation plan and ITP issued by USFWS and NMFS. [7] The logging project operated in Northern spotted owl habitat and also had effects on coho salmon by increasing sediments entering streams. The federal district court found that the biological opinion did not comply with section 7 of the ESA since it failed to analyze short-term impacts to coho salmon [8].


Bear Valley Municipal Water Company v. Jewell

Municipalities and water districts sued [USFWS] after they designated 9,331 acres of critical habitat across three river systems for the Santa Ana sucker that covered land that fell within the boundaries of the Western Riverside HCP. [9] The plaintiffs lawsuit was on the grounds that USFWS did not cooperate with them resolve water resource concerns, arbitrarily and capriciously designated land and violated NEPA by not preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). [10] The U.S Courts of Appeal ruled in favor of the FWS stating that they did comply with statutory obligations to cooperate, the designation of critical habitat was based on best available science, and claims under NEPA is barred by Douglas County.

Conservation Plans in California

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) was enacted in 1970 to protect native species facing extinction or rapid decline in California. It was later amended in 1983 to allow for incidental take of species if specific criteria are met [11]. In 1991, the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCP) was passed, closely resembling Federal HCPs, to secure incidental take permits (CESA section 2081). There are key differences between NCCPs and HCPs, such as NCCPs requiring the overall conditions of species to improve over time [12]. Another difference is the requirement of NCCPs to be set at a regional scale. Thus, NCCPs are considered to be more comprehensive than HCPs with respect to preservation and promotion of species recovery. Applicants in California typically file for both federal and state incidental take permits by creating conservation plans that serve as both NCCPs and HCPs. The requirements for NCCPs include [13]:

  • Public participation
  • Independent scientific input, conservation strategies, and goals
  • Plans based on best available science
  • Adaptive management and monitoring programs
  • Conservation system that protects large habitat blocks, ecosystem function, and biological diversity
  • Corridors that support populations of species of concern

List of HCPs in the Central Coast Region

In the California Central Coast region there are a total of 26 HCPs [14][15]. For a list of HCPs in your region follow this link to the USFWS online database.

Plan Title Location Listed Species Date Permit Issue Size Duration
Blake Lane Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June Beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 12/22/08 0.42 acres 3 years
Fort Ord Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Monterey County Sand gilia (Gilia tenuiflora arenaria), Monterey spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens pungens), Seaside bird’s-beak (Cordylanthus rigidus littoralis), Hooker’s manzanita (Arctostaphylos hookeri hookeri), Sandmat manzanita (A. pumila), Monterey manzanita (A. montereyensis), Monterey ceanothus (Ceanothus cuneatus var. rigidus), Eastwood’s goldenbush (Ericameria fasciculata), Yadon’s piperia (Piperia yadonii), Contra Costa goldfields (Lasthenia conjugens), California Black Legless Lizard (Anniella pulchra nigra), California tiger salamander (Ambystoma californiense), California linderiella (Linderiella occidentalis) - 27,838 acres -
Marina Peninsula Trail and Rehabilitation Project Site (Morro Bay State Park Boardwalk) Morro Bay State Park, San Luis Obispo County Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana) 08/30/10 10 acres 5 years
Seascape Uplands Aptos, Santa Cruz County Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) 08/18/97 192 acres 30 years
Santa Cruz Gardens Unit 12 near Soquel, Santa Cruz County Santa Cruz tarplant (Holocarpha macradenia), Ohlone tiger beetle (Cicindela ohlone) 08/26/09 58.5 acres 10 years
Sarment Property City of Carmel,Highlands, Monterey County Smith's blue butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi) 03/09/07 6.1 acres 5 years
Wildcat Lane LP City of Carmel,Highlands, Monterey County Smith's blue butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi) 09/12/01 11.5 acres 10 years
Post-Ranch Inn City of Big Sur, Monterey County Smith's blue butterfly (Euphilotes enoptes smithi), California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) 12/20/06 91.98 acres 20 years
Salvation Army Northwest of City of Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata), Ben-Lomond spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana) 08/06/09 4.5 acres 3 years
Sunde Residence Mount Hermon, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 07/29/08 160 acres 3 years
Tucker Aptos, Santa Cruz County California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), Santa Cruz long-toed salamander (Ambystoma macrodactylum croceum) 03/02/07 55 acres 10 years
UCSC, Ranchview Terrace UC Santa Cruz Campus, Santa Cruz County California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii), Ohlone Tiger beetle (Cicindela ohlone) 10/27/05 38.8 acres 60 years
West Residence Ben Lomond, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 12/22/08 0.015 acres 3 years
Wilder Quarry Santa Cruz County California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) 06/19/98 125 acres 30 years
Hochler HCP Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) Application submitted and open for public comments 1.758 acres 5 years
Zayante Sandhills Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata), Ben-Lomond Spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana) Application submitted and open for public comments 920 acres -
Bean Creek Estates City of Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata), Ben-Lomond spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana), Ben-Lomond Wallflower (Erysimum teretifolium) 03/19/09 18.1 acres 6 years
Bonny Doon Quarries Bonny Doon, Santa Cruz County California red-legged frog (Rana draytonii) 08/05/99 4.9 acres 10 years
Carter-224 Hidden Glen Drive Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 07/29/08 0.52 acres 5 years
Collado Drive Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 07/29/08 1.093 acres 5 years
Hanson Aggregates Felton Plant Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata), Zayante band-winged grasshopper (Trimerotropis infantilis) 09/03/99 35 acres 15 years
Lone Pine Lane Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 12/22/08 1.24 acres 5 years
Mansfield Low Effect Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata) 06/18/10 0.3 acres 5 years
Mayer Property Santa Cruz County Mount Hermon June beetle (Polyphylla barbata), Ben-Lomond Spineflower (Chorizanthe pungens var. hartwegiana) 06/04/02 0.35 acres 6 years
Hord Residential Project Los Osos, San Luis Obispo County Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana) 09/30/99 4.49 acres 10 years
Gosnell Residential Los Osos, San Luis Obispo County Morro Manzanita (Arctostaphylos morroensis), Morro shoulderband snail (Helminthoglypta walkeriana) 12/23/02 1 acre 25 years

Links

References

  1. HCP Factsheet
  2. HCP Requirements
  3. HCP Pre-application
  4. 4.0 4.1 HCP Permit Processing
  5. Adaptive Management in Habitat Conservation Plans
  6. Habitat Conservation Plans: Certainly Empowered, Somewhat Deliberative, Questionably Democratic
  7. Federal Court Strikes down Habitat Conservation Plan
  8. Klamath V NOAA
  9. Ninth Circuit Critical Habitat Decision
  10. Bear Valley Mutual Water District v. Jewell
  11. CESA Section 2081
  12. Santa Clara Valley Habitat Agency
  13. The Institute for Ecological Health
  14. USFWS HCP database
  15. California HCP Summary


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This page may contain student work completed as part of assigned coursework. It may not be accurate. It does not necessary reflect the opinion or policy of CSUMB, its staff, or students.