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Know the West

'HCPs need peer-reviewed science'


Note: This article is a sidebar to one of this issue's feature stories.

Volunteer Michael Schindell works for the National Endangered Species Network in Sacramento, Calif.

Michael Schindell: "HCPs have weak science. A good example is a plan for Yellow County, Calif., which is a rapidly growing bedroom community west of Sacramento. That HCP uses the Swainson's hawk as an umbrella species for the protection of 27 different endangered plants and animals. Protect some hawk habitat and the other species will be taken care of, too. But some of those species have specific needs that don't overlap with hawk habitat. The whole plan is based on the misapplication of a scientific concept. It's enviro-babble.

"The truth is that developers want to solve all of their endangered species issues now, while the deals with the administration are good. Huge corporations cut the deals to get their huge development project cleared and then everyone else has to shoulder more of the mitigation. HCPs are corporate welfare for these big companies.

"I have nothing against assurances for landowners, but where are the assurances for the endangered species? Good science should make the decision, and if the science isn't ready, then we don't cut the deal yet. The consultants who work for the agencies and corporations should have to do peer-reviewed work. That's not the case now.

"The other problem with HCPs is that they abdicate control over endangered species to local government. In California, counties will implement some of the plans and they are far less interested in endangered species than in tax rolls."