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The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan: A Study in the Evolution of HCPs

James E. Sullivan
Department of Earth Sciences, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521;
Thomas A. Scott
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, and Center for Conservation Biology, University of California, Riverside, CA 92521;

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has evolved into a federal land-use regulation, capable of taming the sprawl of western cities and operating as a tool to force communities into resolving growth conflicts. In Riverside County, the ESA has brought interest groups together in an ambitious effort to fully integrate habitat conservation planning into the traditional land use planning process. After decades of environmental conflict, multiple species conservation planning will now serve as one part of an integrated plan that also includes a new County General Plan and a Transportation Corridor Plan. The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) proposes to cover 160 species on 1.25 million acres of land in a rapidly urbanizing area. No plan, however, could succeed until all the elements were in place: (1) homeowner anger over land development, (2) new ESA strength and enforcement, (3) regulatory uncertainty for land developers, (4) a credible source of biological data, (5) interest groups experienced with negotiation, (6) existing HCPs and preserves, and (7) political leadership. The role of science in this negotiated process is to provide a database that is accepted by all participants and to provide rigourous review of the science used to make policy decisions, without creating policy. The ultimate challenge is not so much the selection of preserves, but the development of management techniques for preserves within an urban landscape.

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The Western Riverside County MSHCP Planning Area, the area
of the Stephens' Kangaroo Rat HCP is the darker interior portion

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