Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center
Section 10(a)(1)(B) provides for the preparation of a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for construction projects on private land and allows some take of species if such taking is incidental to, and not the purpose of, an otherwise lawful activity. To get an incidental take permit, an applicant must submit a HCP that will, to the maximum extent practicable, minimize and mitigate the impacts of incidental taking and will not appreciably reduce the likelihood of the survival and recovery of the species in the wild. Congress intended that this process be used to reduce conflicts between listed species and private development and to provide a framework that would encourage "creative partnerships" between the private sector and local, State, and Federal agencies in the interests of listed species and habitat conservation.
HCPs are receiving increased interest from the public. During FY 1991 and FY 1992, the Service's involvement in HCPs tripled. By the end of FY 1992, the Service was assisting with over 70 HCPs in 14 States and 3 Territories. In some cases, this represents an opportunity for resolution of both real and perceived conflicts between listed species and private activities. Habitat conservation planning may also offer opportunities that protect habitat for candidate species and preclude the need for listing of these species.
The Service's role in the habitat conservation planning process is to provide technical assistance to the private applicant. At the onset of the habitat conservation planning process in the early 1980s, it was the Service's policy to limit its involvement in this process. However, as the habitat conservation planning process has evolved, the Service is finding that the process works best when the Service is an active participant.
In FY 1991, Congress added $500,000 to the Service budget for habitat conservation planning activities in southern California. In FY 1992, the following directives applied:
An example of a recently completed HCP expected to benefit the northern spotted owl involved the Simpson Timber Company. The Simpson Timber Company HCP was completed and an incidental take permit granted in 1992. This HCP established over 40,000 acres of set-asides and special management areas for the northern spotted owl on the company's property. The plan provides for marking and monitoring of owls displaced by timber harvest activities and evaluation of the use of young timber stands by owls. This research and monitoring should prove very valuable in future efforts to maintain owls in managed timberlands.
The Service is also working on numerous habitat conservation planning actions in the southern San Joaquin Valley, including the Metropolitan Bakersfield, Kern County Valley Floor, Kern Fan Element, California Aqueduct, Kern County Landfill, San Emidio New Town, Envirocycle, and Champagne Shores HCPs, and is involved in the development of a comprehensive HCP involving birds, plants, amphibians, and invertebrates in Austin, Texas. One of the chief components in each of these HCPs is a provision for long-term protection of endangered species habitats designed to offset the effects of each proposed project and contribute to species recovery. Some of the species that will benefit from the development of these HCPs are the blunt-nosed leopard lizard, San Joaquin kit fox, giant kangaroo rat, and Tipton kangaroo rat.