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Special Series: Habitat Conservation Planning
Where Property Rights and Biodiversity Converge
Part I: Conservation Planning at the Regional Scale

Gregory A. Thomas Natural Heritage Institute, 2140 Shattuck Ave., 5th Floor, Berkeley, CA 94704;

In the tension between property rights and the public interest in protecting remnant habitats resides the most daunting challenges that our national program to protect biodiversity will face in the next era. Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) provide a mechanism to address these con-flicts. The number of HCPs has increased dramatically in recent years leading to considerable scrutiny of this tool by conservation biologists and environmental organizations. This paper distills the many critical reviews and recommendations for reform of this process. It reveals that HCPs that approach conservation at a bioregional scale can better address the needs of both imperiled species and property owners than can single species, single landowner plans. Bioregional conservation planning can potentially lead to several benefits, including: more equitable apportionment of the costs of conservation, fostering species recovery, facilitating adaptive management, strengthening public participation, and capturing economies of scale for high-caliber science. Multi-species plans undertaken by county or state governments can be a step in this direction. Recovery plans and programmatic conservation standards could be up-graded to also serve as vehicles for establishing bioregional conservation goals as a template for individual HCPs. All of these strategies will require a more proactive involvement of federal agencies to assist in conservation science and planning and in managing public lands to foster recovery of imperiled species.

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