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Habitat Conservation Plans Work! Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Downlisted from Endangered Status

Jun 6, 2022 | MSHCP, Species

Since the adoption of the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1973, Habitat Conservation Plans, or HCPs, have helped protect threatened species. Besides the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, there are other HCPs in our area that help protect specific species.

The Long-Term Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat Habitat Conservation Plan is one of these critically important HCPs. Administered by the Riverside County Habitat Conservation Agency (RCHCA), the plan aims to conserve 15,000 acres of occupied Stephens’ kangaroo rat habitat. To date, more than 46,000 acres were assembled in western Riverside County for this small creature.

What is the Stephens’ kangaroo rat? This tiny mammal may not look like much. In fact, it could be confused with a typical mouse. Measuring about 11 inches and weighing 2.4 ounces, the Stephens’ kangaroo rat is a keystone species, which means it is essential to the survival of other species in its habitat. In western Riverside County, its habitats include the Lake Mathews-Estelle Mountain Reserve, the Lake Skinner-Domenigoni Valley Reserve, and the San Jacinto Wildlife Area-Lake Perris Reserve. As a protected MSHCP species, RCA is also working towards conserving lands to protect this keystone species.

From 1988 to 2022, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed this species as endangered. Due to extensive conservation efforts by regional HCPs, this species was downgraded from endangered to threatened earlier this year. To make this downlisting a possibility, thousands of acres had to be protected with ongoing maintenance. This required decades of planning, collaboration, and funding.

The RCHCA’s announcement said it best, “HCPs serve as a significant framework towards conservation efforts and expediting development while simultaneously protecting the environment.”