Endangered Species
Midwest Region


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Endangered Species Program

Conserving and restoring threatened and endangered species and their ecosystems


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Low-Effect HCP


For purposes of the Section 10 program, the Services establish a special category for HCPs with relatively minor or negligible impacts.


This "low-effect HCP" category is defined as follows:


Low-Effect HCPs are those involving: (1) minor or negligible effects on federally listed, proposed, or candidate species and their habitats covered under the HCP; and (2) minor or negligible effects on other environmental values or resources. "Low-effect" incidental take permits are those permits that, despite their authorization of some small level of incidental take, individually and cumulatively have a minor or negligible effect on the species covered in the HCP. Low-effect HCPs may also apply to habitat-based HCPs if the permitted activities have minor or negligible effects to the species associated with the habitat-types covered in the HCP. Factors relevant to the determination that an activity is a low-effect activity include, but are not limited to, the effect of the activity on the distribution or the numbers of the species.

The relationship between the geographic size of a project and the scope or severity of its impacts will not always be clear-cut. Projects that are large or small in size often will have commensurately high or low effects. However, a project may be large in size, but still be categorized as low-effect if it is expected to result in minor or negligible impacts. Similarly, a project could be small in size but capable of generating very significant impacts (e.g., if it affects a species with a highly-restricted range).


The Services must consider each HCP on a case-by-case basis in determining whether it belongs in the low-effect category, taking into account all relevant factors including biological factors. The determination of whether an HCP qualifies for the low-effect category must be based on its anticipated impacts prior to implementation of the mitigation plan. The purpose of this category is to expedite handling of HCPs for activities with inherently low impacts, not for projects with significant potential impacts that are subsequently reduced through mitigation programs. However, this determination should factor in actions taken by the applicant to avoid take, such as conducting activities during specific times to avoid the nesting season or by relocating project locations.


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Last updated: August 29, 2018