Formation of Habitat Conservation Plans
The Western Riverside County MSHCP is the gold standard nationally, but a well-kept secret within California. With a goal of conserving 500,000 acres, it is one of the largest Habitat Conservation Plan of its kind in the country and protects 146 plant and animal species, including 33 that are endangered and threatened.
So, where did the idea of Habitat Conservation Plans start? It all began during the 1960s and 70s when the public became more aware of pollution and other environmental issues. The U.S. Endangered Species Act was adopted in 1973, creating new protections for species threatened by environmental concerns. One section of the bill allowed forming a new type of local, state, and federal partnership called a Habitat Conservation Plan or HCP to preserve at-risk species at the local level. HCPs protect the habitat and offer a pathway for commercial, industrial, residential, and infrastructure development to occur, while mitigating potential harm to the environment.
In 2004, the Western Riverside County MSHCP was formed to protect not only the 33 endangered or threatened species, but also 113 other plants and animals. The MSHCP is administered by the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority and managed by the Riverside County Transportation Commission. Environmental permits held by the RCA have improved Riverside County transportation infrastructure by expediting multiple highway road, and transit projects.
Further, the MSHCP funds species monitoring, habitat management, and land acquisition through development fees for new projects. To date, 82% of the half million acres needed for the reserve have been acquired.
HCPs, like the Western Riverside County MSHCP, preserve land and protect habitat for growing regions like Riverside County, helping to enhance the quality of living for residents – now and for future generations.