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Endangered Species Act and Habitat Conservation Plan. Environment 121 4 June 2009 Professor Victoria Sork. Obama Restores Scientific Consultation to Endangered Species Act (3 March 2009).

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endangered species act and habitat conservation plan

Endangered Species Act and Habitat Conservation Plan

Environment 121

4 June 2009

Professor Victoria Sork

obama restores scientific consultation to endangered species act 3 march 2009
Obama Restores Scientific Consultation to Endangered Species Act (3 March 2009)

"Today, I've signed a memorandum that will help restore the scientific process to its rightful place at the heart of the Endangered Species Act, a process undermined by past administrations," Obama said to applause.

"The work of scientists and experts in my administration, including right here in the Interior Department, will be respected," he said. "For more than three decades, the Endangered Species Act has successfully protected our nation's most threatened wildlife, and we should be looking for ways to improve it - not weaken it.…... With smart, sustainable policies, we can grow our economy today and preserve the environment for ourselves, our children, and our grandchildren," said Obama. "That is what we must do."

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, left, and President Barack Obama mark the 160th anniversary of the Department of the Interior. (Photo courtesy DOI)

endangered species act history
Endangered species act: history
  • Endangered Species Preservation Act in 1966
    • means for listing native animal species as endangered and giving them limited protection
    • The Act also authorized the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service to acquire land as habitat for endangered species
    • In 1969, Congress amended the Act to provide additional protection to species in danger of “worldwide extinction” by prohibiting their importation and subsequent sale in the United States
endangered species act of 1973
Endangered Species Act of 1973
  • defined “endangered” and “threatened” [section 3]
  • plants and all invertebrates eligible for protection [section 3];
  • applied broad “take” prohibitions to all endangered animal species and allowed the prohibitions to apply to threatened animal species by special regulation [section 9];
  • required Federal agencies to use their authorities to conserve listed species and consult on “may affect” actions [section 7];
  • prohibited Federal agencies from authorizing, funding, or carrying out any action that would jeopardize a listed species or destroy or modify its “critical habitat” [section 7];
  • matching funds available to States with cooperative agreements [section 6];
  • funding authority for land acquisition for foreign species [section 8];
  • Implemented CITES protection in the United States [section 8].
cites convention on international trade in endangered species
CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species
  • Created at Convention of 80 countries in Washington DC in 1973.
  • one of the largest conservation agreements in existence
  • Participation is voluntary
  • As of 21 April 2009, 175 States had become Parties to the Convention
  • Party: Countries that sign the Convention by ratifying, accepting or approving it.
  • works by subjecting international trade in specimens of listed species to certain controls
  • Roughly 5,000 species of animals and 28,000 species of plants are protected by CITES against over-exploitation through international trade
us fish and wildlife activities
US Fish and Wildlife Activities

National Endangered Species Act Day

  • http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2009/es/ESPSA.html

Endangered species program

  • http://www.fws.gov/endangered/wildlife.html

Listed Species

  • http://ecos.fws.gov/tess_public/StateListing.do?state=all
fy2009 cooperative endangered species conservation fund
FY2009 Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund*

Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants: California

City of Carlsbad Habitat Management Plan (HMP) (San Diego County, CA) $6,000,000.

  • purchase 100-200 acres of important biological core area for California gnatcatchers.
  • benefit another 30 species, including least Bell’s vireo, California least tern, and western snowy plover.
  • benefits covered species within the Carlsbad HMP

Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (Riverside County, CA) $6,000,000.

  • purchase lands that will greatly enhance the existing Coachella Valley MSHCP
  • Secures key regional wildlife linkages, sand transport areas, and preserving core habitat areas.
  • Benefit 20 species, including Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, desert tortoise and peninsular bighorn sheep.

East Contra Costa County Habitat Conservation Plan: Upper Marsh Creek Watershed, (Contra Costa County, CA) $2,407,200.

  • Acquire up to 900 acres that provide essential habitat and connectivity for multiple species.
  • Supports the largest concentration of ponds, seasonal wetlands, and ephemeral streams in the HCP area
  • Crucial habitat for wetland-dependent species such as California Red-legged frog and California tiger salamander.
  • Supports the vast majority of the chaparral habitat essential for Alameda whipsnake and several covered plant species.


habitat conservation planning assistance grants california
Habitat Conservation Planning Assistance Grants: California

City of San Diego Vernal Pool Species Habitat Conservation Plan (San Diego County, CA) $615,000.

  • This project would support the development of an HCP for Vernal Pools in the San Diego Region.

Butte Regional Habitat/Natural Community Conservation Plan (Butte County, CA) $536,588.

  • This project would support the development of an HCP/NCCP for Butte County to provide for the protection and conservation of the region’s biodiversity while allowing for appropriate development and growth to occur.

Yolo County Habitat Conservation Plan/Natural Community Conservation Plan (Yolo County, CA) $634,988.

  • This project would fun the continued work on the Yolo County HCP/NCCP.
what is a habitat conservation plan
What is a Habitat Conservation Plan?
  • Created by Section 10 of Endangered Species Act in 1982 as a modification to the original ESA in 1973, which prohibited "take".
  • "Incidental Take Permit"
    • required when non-Federal activities with result in "take" of threatened or endangered wildlife
    • HCP must accompany an application for an incidental take permit
    • authorizes the incidental take of listed species
    • Issued by US Fish and Wildlife Service
  • Anyone who has project that that will result in an "incidental take" must apply for a permit and then design an HCP
  • An HCP ensures there is adequate minimizing and mitigating of the effects of the authorized incidental take.
what is incidental take
What is Incidental Take ?
  • definition: harm, harass, kill, trap, capture, collect any endangered or threatened species
  • Harm can include habitat modification
  • Does not apply to listed plants, although the HCP must not jeopardize listed plant species.
what needs to be in an hcp
What needs to be in an HCP?
  • An assessment of impacts likely to result from the taking of federally listed species
  • measures that will be undertaken to monitor, minimize and mitigate impacts of take
  • funding to implement the measures
  • procedures to deal with unforeseen circumstances
  • Alternative actions that were analyzed and why not selected
  • Additional measures that the FWS might require
what kinds of actions are considered mitigation
What kinds of actions are considered mitigation?
  • Measures that reduce or address potential adverse affects of the proposed activity on the species covered by the HCP
  • Measures could include
    • preservation via acquisition or conservation easements of existing habitat
    • enhancement or restoration of degraded habitat
    • creation of new habitats
    • establishment of buffer areas of existing habitats
    • modification of land use practices
    • restriction of access
no surprises assurances
"No Surprises Assurances"
  • Provided by the government to the permittee as long as the terms and conditions of the HCP are implemented and maintained.
  • Private landowners are assured that if "unforeseen circumstances" arise, the FWS will not require commitment of additional land or water or financial compensation or additional restrictions beyond those agreed in the HCP.
hcp s by december 2007
HCP's by December 2007
  • 430 HCPs
  • many early ones were less than 1000 ac
  • 10 exceed 500,000 acres
  • several > 1,000,000 acres
  • some involve multiple species and multiple projects
  • G. Examples:
  • Central Coastal Orange County HCP
  • See web site: US FWS Endangered Species Habitat Conservation Planning
using science in habitat conservation plans kareiva et al 1998

Summary of Data

  • 208 HCPs
  • involve permits for incidental take of 73 endangered or threatened species.
  • Of those 208, a great majority (82%) involve a single species, although the
  • profile is skewed by more than 70 plans involving the golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroicachrysoparia) in Travis County, Texas.
  • HCPs occur in 13 states; the largest concentrations are in Texas, Florida, and California.
  • They range in size from only 0.17 ha (0.5 acre) of habitat to 660,000 ha (1.6 million acres) of habitat.
  • Duration of plans also varies widely, from seven months for a plan in Travis County, Texas, to 100 years for the Murray Pacific Company’s HCP in Washington.
kareiva study results
Kareiva Study results:


  • only 56% of the instances in which a listed species might be “taken” by an activity was the predicted take quantitatively estimated.
  • And only 25% (23 of 97) of species treatments included both a quantitative estimate of take and an adequate assessment of the impact of that take.


  • Minimization and avoidance of the threatened species are by far the most common mitigation measures (avoidance is proposed for 74% of species, and minimization for 83%).
  • commonly suffered from an absence of data


  • For only 22 of the 43plans was there a clearly outlined monitoring program.
  • Of those 22 well-described monitoring programs, only 7 took the next step of indicating how the monitoring could be used to evaluate the HCP's success
usfw response to kareiva study
USFW Response to Kareiva Study*
  • “The Service applauds the American Institute of Biological Sciences and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis for undertaking an in-depth analysis of the scientific data used in Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). “
  • “Nevertheless, we do not agree with the report's conclusion that the Service lacks adequate scientific data and analysis to support many of the approved HCPs. We believe that the 233 HCPs currently in place are based on sound science. If we lack critical information regarding the biological needs of a species proposed to be covered under an HCP, we will not approve the plan until such information is obtained or an acceptable adaptive management clause is added to the HCP.”


what is a multispecies hcp
What is a Multispecies HCP?
  • Promoted by wildlife agencies
  • Allegedly this approach increases the biological values of HCPs by providing "Ecosystem Planning"
  • Evidence suggest that species covered under MSHCP's are less likely to show improving trends than single species plans.
  • MSCHP's are intended to satisfy interests of conservation and economic development
  • Many HCPs are approved without adequate scientific data
  • Absence of information on coverage of species in planning area makes it impossible to evaluate conservation benefits
  • The HCP cannot ensure that the area set aside for conservation would result in "no jeopardy"
  • This problem is particularly acute for multi-species habitat plans
  • 40-50% of listed species in multispecies plans show declining trends (Taylor et al 2005)
    • probably due to lack of coverage
    • "umbrella approach" does not necessarily work
  • More scientific information is needed before HCP's should be approved or can be implemented.
critique of multispecies habitat conservation plans
Critique of Multispecies Habitat Conservation Plans

source: M Rahn, H Doremus, J Diffendorfer. 2006. Species coverage in multispecies habitat conservation plans: Where's the science? BioScience 56: 613-619.

Goal of paper

  • Assess whether MSCHP's incorporate science-based conservation planning
    • are covered species confirmed in planning area?
    • does the conservation plan contain specific measures for the covered species?
methods from rahn et al
Methods from Rahn et al
  • Limited analysis to USFWS Region 1: 85% of MSHCPs
  • 22 plans approved before Dec 2005
    • include at least one federally listed species and one unlisted species
    • terrestrial systems
    • all documents must be avaialbe
  • Determined whether a covered species was confirmed to be in the planning area: needs site specific data
  • Evaluated whether covered species had plans for species-specific conservation measures
  • size ranged from 155 to 5 M acres
  • Number of species ranged from 8-161
  • 41% of species covered in the plans were not in the planning area (Table 1)
    • Only one plan had all the covered species confirmed
    • In another plan, 89% of covered species were not confirmed to be in the planning area
  • Many reasons that species weren't confirmed
    • Known to be in nearby area or similar habitat
    • Might pass through the planning area (e.g. Canadian geese)
  • 85% of species without species-specific conservation actions, were the ones not confirmed in the planning area
closing points
Closing points
  • Endangered Species Act is a powerful tool for species and habitat protection
  • Single-species Habitat Conservation Plans are most likely to be effective for species and habitat
  • Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plans are growing trend
    • Advantages: multiple species can be monitored
    • Disadvantage: Developers includes many species so that they can benefit from “no surprises” but less likely to effectively monitor all species. s