Strange Bedfellows: Observations on the Current Relationship between Recovery Plans and Habitat Conservation Planning

Christopher R. Pyke
Department of Geography, Biogeography Lab, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93106;

Britta Bierwagen
Donald Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara.

Noah Goldstein
Department of Geography, Biogeography Lab, University of California, Santa Barbara.


The U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) mandates the formation of recovery plans to define the steps and approaches needed to remove species from threatened or endangered status.  A 1982 amendment to the act added Section 10(a) allowing for the "incidental take" of listed species under an innovative and controversial program known as Habitat Conservation Planning.  While the goal of recovery planning is the eventual delisting of a species, Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are only required to cause no further jeopardy, while mitigating impacts to the maximum extent practicable.  This study focused on the interaction between these ESA provisions in 44 approved HCPs.  We participated in an interdisciplinary working group organized by the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) and the American Institute for Biological Sciences (AIBS) during Fall 1997.  The working group integrated the resources of 13 faculty ecologists, and 106 graduate students at 8 universities to conduct an in-depth review of a cross section of existing HCPs.  The scientific basis of the plans was evaluated in terms of the amount and type of data and the appropriateness of subsequent analyses in five areas: (1) take, (2) effects of implementation, (3) current biological status, (4) monitoring, and (5) mitigation.  We found that species without recovery plans received more favorable ratings for adequacy of mitigation, monitoring procedures, and assessment of take.  The existence of recovery plans had no impact on scores for the adequacy of the assessment of current status or the effects of HCP implementation.  The existence of a recovery plan does not directly translate into improvements in species-specific planning in HCPs.  The findings from the AIBS/NCEAS workshop were also compared to an extensive survey of recovery plans conducted by Foin et al. (1998).  Our findings suggest several ways in which mutually beneficial improvements in HCPs and recovery planning could assist in the management of threatened and endangered species.

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