A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is a planning document designed to accommodate economic development to the extent possible by authorizing the limited and unintentional take of listed species when it occurs incidental to otherwise lawful activities. The plan is designed not only to help landowners and communities but also to provide long-term benefits to species and their habitats.
HCPs describe the anticipated effects of the proposed taking, how those impacts will be minimized or mitigated, and how the conservation measures included in the plan will be funded. If the Service finds an HCP meets the specified criteria, it issues an incidental take permit. This allows the permit holder to proceed with an activity that could otherwise result in the unlawful take of a listed species.
Working with the Service, the potential applicant develops an HCP that assesses the likely impacts on target species from the proposed project, the steps that will be taken to minimize and mitigate those impacts, and how the steps will be funded. The plan also identifies any alternatives that could avoid the incidental take and the reasons why those alternatives are not being chosen. The applicant then applies to the Service for an incidental take permit.
An HCP that individual landowners can join may already exist in a given area. Such plans are known as programmatic HCPs and are often county- or even region-wide. HCPs can also include conservation measures for vulnerable plant and animal species that are not listed federally as endangered or threatened.
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