Habitat Conservation Plans and Climate Change: Recommendations for Policy

Date01 September 2015
9-2015 NEWS & ANALYSIS 45 ELR 10863
Plans and
Climate Change:
for Policy
by Melinda Taylor and Holly Doremus
Melinda Taylor is Senior Lecturer and Executive Director
at the Kay Bailey Hutchison Center for Energy, Law,
and Business of the University of Texas at Austin.
Holly Doremus is James H. House and Hiram H.
Hurd Professor of Environmental Regulation and Co-
Faculty Director of the Center for Law, Energy, and the
Environment at the University of California, Berkeley.
Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) are critical tools
for managing species and their habitats. Climate
change poses special challenges for successful habi-
tat conservation planning, but there are several steps
to take to address these challenges. Key provisions
in government regulations and guidance are at odds
with considering climate change in HCPs, and revi-
sions are recommended, including reliance on adap-
tive management. By looking to these recommended
best practices, habitat conservation planning can be
strengthened not only to address climate change, but
to better reect the changing context and environ-
ment in which HCPs must be implemented.
I. Introduction
e rst habitat conservation plan (HCP)—the San Bruno
Mountain HCP, covering 3,500 acres in California—was
approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)
in 1986. Since then, approximately 690 HCPs have been
approved by FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Ser-
vice (NMFS, collectively, the Services).1 HCPs cover over
80 million acres of land with diverse habitats, including
Florida scrub, long leaf pine, limestone karst, Southwest
desert, and old growth timber. e vast majority of HCPs
have been approved since January 1998, a reection of the
success of policies, developed during the William Clinton
Administration and rened during the George W. Bush
Administration, that were designed to provide incentives for
landowners to protect rare habitats. e Services published
their “Habitat Conservation Planning and Incidental Take
Permit Processing Handbook” in 1996, and an addendum
to the HCP Ha ndbook in 2000. e Handbook provides
guidance to the Services on the processing of HCPs, to
applicants preparing HCPs and navigating through the
regulatory process, and to interested stakeholders.
Climate change is not mentioned in the Enda ngered
Species Act (ESA),2 its implementing regulations, or
the HCP Handbook. e impact of climate change on
threatened a nd endangered species and their habitats was
not considered by the U.S. Congress when t he E SA was
enacted, or by the Services when the regulations were pro-
mulgated and t he Handbook was written. But it is appa r-
ent today that cl imate change is having an impact on  sh
and wildlife a nd, even if aggressive m itigation strategies
are implemented in the nea r term, will continue to aec t
natural systems for decades to come. Recognizing this,
the Ser vices have publi shed reports, st udies, and policies
that highlight the importance of incorporating climate
change eects into conservation strategies, pursuant to
the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Climate Change
Adaptation Plan.3
1. More information on the HCP program developed and administered by
FWS and NMFS is available at Environmental Conservation Online System
2. 16 U.S.C. §§1531-1544, ELR S. ESA §§2-18.
3. See, e.g., U.S. FWS, C M F: S P-
  A U  N R C
(2014), available at www.fws.gov/home/climatechange/pdf/scenario-plan-
ning-report.pdf; U.S. D’   I (DOI), C C
A P (2014), available at http://www.doi.gov/greening/sus-
       
contributions to this Article. We also thank our terric research
assistants: Ian Fein, Elizabeth Hundt, and Ryan Trahan. Finally,
         
the Berkeley Law Climate and Energy Policy Institute and the
Copyright © 2015 Environmental Law Institute®, Washington, DC. Reprinted with permission from ELR®, http://www.eli.org, 1-800-433-5120.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT