Bexar County and the City of San Antonio have begun a regional planning effort to balance the conservation needs of rare plants and animals with the demand for economic growth and development. The Southern Edwards Plateau Habitat Conservation Plan (or "SEP-HCP") will allow the County and City to obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) that will establish a locally controlled, simplified process for complying with the Endangered Species Act. The SEP-HCP will also create a coordinated regional conservation program to protect sensitive natural resources in south central Texas, including Bexar, Medina, Bandera, Kerr, Kendall, Blanco, and Comal counties.

endangered species act

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 (the "ESA") to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend. The USFWS administers the ESA for terrestrial and freshwater organisms. The ESA protects threatened or endangered species and their habitats by prohibiting "take" of listed animals. As defined by the ESA, take means "to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."

Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the ESA, authorizes the USFWS to issue permits allowing take of federally listed species providing that the taking is "incidental to, and not the purpose of, the carrying out of an otherwise lawful activity." To obtain an incidental take permit, an applicant must prepare a habitat conservation plan (or "HCP").

  ESA BASICS: more than 30 years of conserving endangered species  (USFWS)

habitat conservation plans

HCPs are developed and implemented by the applicants for ESA incidental take permits. HCPs ensure that the effects of authorized take are adequately minimized and mitigated. HCPs must include: (1) an assessment of the impact that will likely result from the taking; (2) measures the applicant will take to minimize and mitigate the impacts and the funding available to implement those measures; (3) alternative actions to the taking that were considered and the reasons the alternatives were not chosen; and (4) other measures that the USFWS may require as necessary or appropriate for purposes of the conservation plan.

The mitigation measures included in a HCP reduce or address the potential adverse effects of a proposed activity on a species covered by the HCP. Mitigation measures may include (but are not limited to) preservation of habitat, creation of new habitats, establishing buffers around existing habitats, modification of land use practices or project designs, and restrictions on access to habitat areas.