June 2012 Update: To learn more about the draft Avra Valley HCP and how to comment between now and
To protect our natural heritage, balance community and economic growth with the natural environment, and to comply with the Endangered Species Act, the City of Tucson is working with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service to create two Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs). HCPs help municipalities comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA) through documenting the occurrence of endangered, threatened, and vulnerable species while also describing conservation strategies to mitigate possible future negative impacts to those species. An HCP that satisfies the requirements of the ESA allows the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to issue an “incidental take*” permit to the applicant. This permit provides the City, and all those covered under the permit, with legal certainty should any proposed activities lead to the incidental take of federally listed species. This is because the HCP prescribes conservation measures with the intent to offset the impacts of any take.
There are several components of an HCP, including:
- An assessment of likely impacts to species;
- Conservation measures to minimize impacts to covered species along with mitigation strategies and monitoring plans;
- Funding sources for plan implementation;
- Assessment of changed and unforeseen circumstances along with strategies to address these;
- Alternative actions to what is proposed in the HCP.
The HCP Planning Areas
The Avra Valley HCP will apply to approximately 22,000 acres of City-owned lands in unincorporated Pima County purchased in the 1970s and 1980s for water rights (for a map of the Avra Valley Permit Area, click here). The “Greater Southlands” applies to the City’s annexed lands south of Interstate 10 as well as lands to the south and east of the current City limits that are part of the City’s Municipal Planning Area. In total, the Greater Southlands HCP Planning Area covers nearly 130,000 acres, of which approximately 34,500 acres are within the current City limits (for a map of the Greater Southlands planning area, click here).
Gathering Information and Guidance
The City, in partnership with the Arizona Game and Fish Department, has applied for and received federal grants providing financial assistance for work related to Habitat Conservation Plan development. Two committees, a technical committee and a stakeholder committee (for more information on these committees, click here) provide input and direction for the process. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service staff members sit on the committees and have been available for assistance throughout the process. Drafts of the HCPs serve as benchmarks. As part of the National Environmental Policy Act phase of the HCP process, stakeholders and interested members of the public will have the opportunity to provide input. For more information on HCP public involvement, click here.
Members of the public are welcome to attend the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meetings and the Resources Planning Advisory Committee (RPAC) meetings. More information about these committees can be found here.
*The Endangered Species Act defines “take” as “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.”