Habitat conservation plans (HCPs) permit the incidental take of threatened or endangered species listed under the federal Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and the NOAA Fisheries Service endorse multispecies HCPs, claiming that they offer advantages for both conservation and development. However, the conservation benefits of multispecies plans to individual covered species may be overestimated. We reviewed the species selected for coverage in 22 multispecies HCPs from USFWS Region 1. We found that conservation measures were often not clearly defined, and that the presence of the species in the planning area was not even confirmed for 41 percent of covered species. While we do not question the conservation value of multispecies plans, our study suggests that changes are needed to achieve full conservation potential.
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