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Science and Uncertainty in Habitat Conservation Planning

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The Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is a provision Congress added to the Endangered Species Act in 1982, in order to allow private landowners to "take" imperiled species under certain conditions. An HCP is approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service when that HCP demonstrates that a landowner has done everything possible to mitigate impacts on the species and that the takings are unlikely to jeopardize the continued survival of the species. Unfortunately, significant scientific uncertainties commonly exist in estimating the imperiled species’ population size, the efficacy of mitigation strategies and the cumulative effect of multiple HCPs. The authors describe the results of a study of HCP uncertainties and suggest methods for reducing such uncertainties.

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