US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)
Federally listed and threatened endangered species often rely on critical habitat found on private land. The population and habitat needs of one of these species may be juxtaposed with economic development and other legal activities on a landowner’s property. In these situations, “incidental take” of a protected species can occur. Incidental take without an approved permit from USFWS is subject to penalty under the Endangered Species Act.
The Endangered Species Act provides a mechanism by which landowners can minimize and mitigate for unintentional harm to listed species and receive a permit from the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) authorizing a limited amount of incidental take associated with the landowner’s activities. Landowners that wish to seek an incidental take permit can contact USFWS to receive assistance on developing a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).
Habitat Conservation Plans
Habitat Conservation Plans detail the expected impacts to the listed species, actions the landowner will undertake to minimize impact to the species, and how the conservation activities for minimization will be funded.
Mitigation may be the purchase of credits from an established conservation bank, preservation or enhancement of existing species habitat, modifications of land use, restriction of access, or other activities that benefit the species.
In addition to receiving an incidental take permit, landowners receive assurances that if unforeseen circumstances arise over the course of the HCP term, USFWS will not require additional land, water, or financial compensation or additional land restrictions beyond what is agreed to in the HCP. These assurances are guaranteed as long as the HCP is active.
Laws governing habitat conservation plans and incidental take permits can be found under the USFWS Habitat Conservation Planning Policies Section.