Alabama Beach Mouse
Habitat Conservation Planning -- Steps for Issuing an Incidental
An incidental take permit is recommended when non-Federal activities will result in "take" of threatened or endangered wildlife. A habitat conservation plan (HCP) must accompany an application for an incidental take permit.
The purpose of the habitat conservation planning process associated with the permit is to ensure there is adequate minimizing and mitigating of the effects of the authorized incidental take. The purpose of the incidental take permit is to authorize the incidental take of a listed species, not to authorize the activities that result in take.
Once an application for an Incidental Take Permit is received by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Service begins a series of steps to review the application package and to determine whether a permit can be issued. Below we have outlined the steps required prior to issuing an Incidental Take Permit.
- The applicant submits an application for an Incidental Take Permit. The application package must include a completed Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP).
- The Service’s Alabama Field Office reviews the application and HCP for completeness, and prepares a draft Environmental Assessment (EA), which is required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). The Field Office also prepares a draft Federal Register Notice.
- If the Service determines that the project would result in a significant affect to the human environment, an EIS would be required. Preparation of an EIS would likely result in a significant time delay before a permit could be issued.
- The documents, along with a Certification of Completeness, are submitted to the Service’s Regional Office in Atlanta. The Regional Office and Regional Solicitor’s Office review the submitted documents for compliance with the Endangered Species Act and other regulations, as well as conduct a legal review.
- Once any significant or legal issues identified during the Service review have been resolved, a notice is published in the Federal Register describing the proposed action and requesting public comment. The notice specifies a length of time during which comments will be accepted (customarily 60 days).
- The Service responds to public comments, holds a public meeting if needed, and finalizes the NEPA document, either an EA or Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). Service biologists consider all documents related to issuance of a permit, as well as comments received from the public.
- The Service prepares a Biological Opinion (BO) to reach a biological conclusion on whether the issuance of a permit by the Service would result in an adverse modification of critical habitat or jeopardize the continued existence of the species. The Service also quantifies the amount of Incidental Take allowed for the permit (either in terms of a number of individual mice that can be harmed, or the amount of habitat which can be impacted) and provides non-discretionary “Reasonable and Prudent Measures” which must be implemented to minimize incidental take.
- Based on the information in the BO, the Service finalizes the NEPA process by preparing either a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) or a Record of Decision (ROD), and determines whether or not to issue the permit.
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