1. What is a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP)?
An HCP is the legal path to develop property in compliance with federal endangered species law. More specifically, it is related to a federal Incidental Take Permit (ITP). An HCP is the plan that shows how proposed impacts ("take") will be minimized and mitigated. An incidental take permit (ITP) is required when non-Federal activities will result in the impact of threatened or endangered wildlife.
2. Why an HCP?
The County is developing an umbrella HCP to cover its permit applicants who may need one. Otherwise each applicant who needs an HCP must go through a 12-36 month process to get their own HCP directly from U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and separately obtain building permits from Thurston County. The County's HCP will keep permits flowing, and provide a predictable permit process. It will allow permits to be issued year-round, with no need for the seasonal June-October gopher review. The County can be a one-stop shop for permit applicants. If the County adopts its own HCP, that will mean when someone receives a County permit, federal and state species laws are also met.
3. Who approves an HCP?
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approves the County HCP.
4. Who implements the HCP?
Thurston County will oversee the HCP implementation.
5. Who is covered?
All project types for which Thurston County issues permits, except mining activities, which will require applicants to obtain their own federal permits.
6. What if I don't believe I have habitat on my property?
The HCP will have a process that allows applicants to demonstrate they don’t have habitat on-site. This is currently being created.
7. Am I required to participate in the County HCP?
No. It's voluntary. Permit applicants can get their own HCP directly from the USFWS.
8. Will an HCP render my land unusable?
No. Just the opposite. If your property has habitat for one of the covered species, an HCP is the legal path to develop your land in compliance with the Endangered Species Act.