Habitat Conservation Plan: Too Good To Be True?


Habitat Conservation Plans are a method via the Endangered Species Act whereby landowners can obtain Incidental Take Permits (ITP) for a listed species.  ITPs allow what are considered ‘lawful activities’ i.e. logging, to result in “incidental take” i.e., habitat modification, harm, harassment, or take of a listed species. In exchange, mitigations are proposed, such as set-aside areas.  Despite the name, a Habitat Conservation Plan is more like a habitat modification strategy.

EPIC contends in its scoping comments on the new Green Diamond HCP that if Habitat Conservation Plans actually functioned to recover species, we would be the first in line to advocate for them. Our experience with Green Diamond’s first HCP and the Pacific Lumber HCP has been that they are a flawed strategy which contribute to decline rather than stability, let alone any recovery, of Northern Spotted Owls. In practice, HCPs undermine the strategy of the Endangered Species Act and do irreversible damage to endangered species habitat without mitigation to truly outweigh the damage. It is our contention that the US Fish and Wildlife Service should enforce the Endangered Species Act, not provide “work-arounds”.

The original Green Diamond  Northern Spotted Owl HCP is littered with inadequacies.  The habitat standards, definitions, and home-range size utilized under the old HCP have all proven to be inadequate to facilitate anything other than owl take.  EPIC believes that issuing Green Diamond another ITP  is inappropriate given the amount of take that