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Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions
May 2016

Assessing County and Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Creation: What Contributes to Success?

Assessing County and Regional Habitat Conservation Plan Creation: What Contributes to Success?

Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) are a means for private landowners to comply with the Endangered Species Act. It has become increasingly common for county and regional governments to create region-wide HCPs that cover development from multiple projects in the entire region. Local governments recognize that these plans can increase economic certainty for residents, increase development, and potentially increase conservation. However, region-wide plans are time and resource intensive, and they sometimes are not completed. What factors and processes lead to the successful completion of an HCP at the regional and county level? This paper presents the results of five case studies on county or regional HCPs. It finds that several factors contribute to successful HCP creation: (1) a cooperative relationship between the county or region and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and between the local governing body and the USFWS; (2) local community and political involvement, especially early stakeholder engagement; (3) determination of the covered species by a scientific advisory committee or a consultant; (4) primary funding through USFWS Section 6 grants; and (5) utilization of the county or region’s own reserve lands to most efficiently use mitigation funds and provide the best species habitat. By identifying these factors that contribute to HCP success, this analysis allows stakeholders to anticipate needs and potential barriers, benefitting individuals with diverse interests in counties and regions where a large-scale HCP is possible.