Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) Land Acquisition Grants, authorized through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund and funded through the Land and Water Conservation Fund, provide funding to States and Territories to acquire land associated with approved and permitted HCPs. Grants do not fund the mitigation required of an HCP permittee; instead, they support land acquisition by the State or subrecipients that complement mitigation requirements.
Prior to 1982, non-federal landowners undertaking otherwise lawful activities that were likely to take listed species risked violating section 9 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which prohibits the "taking" of a listed species. In the 1982 amendments to the ESA, Congress established a voluntary mechanism under section 10(a)(1)(B) that authorizes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to issue to non-federal entities a permit for the "incidental take" of endangered and threatened wildlife species. An HCP must accompany the application for an incidental take permit to demonstrate how the applicant intends to meet minimization and mitigation commitments to meet the permit issuance criteria under section 10(a)(2)(B) of the ESA. The commitments made by the applicant in the HCP become part of the permit.
In some states, HCPs have become a broad-based, landscape-level planning tool. In addition to conserving listed species, HCPs often include conservation measures for candidate and at-risk species, as well as other rare species in the plan area. By including these species in the HCP, developers and landowners can also help prevent their decline or need for future listing under the ESA. Should a non-listed species that is covered in the HCP become listed during the permit term, the HCP can provide a seamless process to authorize the take to the newly listed species and eliminate the need to amend the permit. Thus, landowners have an incentive to conserve listed species as well as candidate and at-risk species that are likely to be listed in the future.
HCP Land Acquisition Grants
Established in fiscal year 1997, the HCP Land Acquisition Grant program was designed to reduce conflicts between the conservation of listed species and competing land uses on specific parcels of land associated with approved and permitted HCPs. Under this program, the Service provides matching grants to states and territories in support of land acquisition projects that will conserve species habitat in perpetuity through fee simple acquisition or the acquisition of permanent conservation easements. The Service considers the use of federal acquisition dollars by states and territories for habitat protection associated with HCPs to be an important and effective mechanism to promote species recovery, prevent extinction, and preclude the need to list species under the ESA in the future. All land acquired through these grants complements, but does not replace, the mitigation, minimization, and/or monitoring commitments of the HCP. Thus, this work is additive to the conservation commitments entered into when HCPs are permitted and serves as a meaningful way to leverage non-federal investment in species recovery and connect conservation lands across the landscape.
To be considered for funding under this opportunity, the land proposed for acquisition must benefit at least one eligible species included on an active section 10(a)(1)(B) permit, hereafter “eligible covered species.” The following species are eligible for consideration under this funding opportunity if included on the section 10(a)(1)(B) permit.
Federally Listed Species
Species listed as threatened or endangered through section 4 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Species for which the Service has sufficient information on biological status and threats to propose them as endangered or threatened under the ESA, but for which development of a proposed listing regulation is precluded by other higher priority listing activities.
For the purposes of this funding opportunity, at-risk species are those that are the subject of a positive 90-day finding but not yet the subject of a proposed rule; species that are the subject of a proposed listing rule but not a final rule; species for which the Service has initiated an ESA status review and has announced the review in the Federal Register, and species included on the National Listing Workplan.
While all projects must be consistent with the conservation objectives outlined in a species’ most recently approved recovery planning document, those anticipated to significantly contribute to species recovery, preclude listing of a candidate species, or address threats to an at-risk species will be prioritized. HCP Land Acquisition grants support acquisitions associated with both single- and multiple-species HCPs. Each year, 10 percent of the funding available will be used to support the acquisition of land associated with single-species HCPs.
To be eligible for funding, a state or territory must currently have, or enter into, a cooperative agreement with the Secretary of the Interior pursuant to section 6(c) of the Endangered Species Act and provide a minimum non-federal cost share of 25 percent, or 10 percent when two or more states or territories implement a joint project. While funding may only be awarded to States, local governments such as counties or groups such as conservation organizations may work in partnership with a State or Territorial agency as a subgrantee.
States and Territories must submit applications through Grantsolutions.gov. Detailed guidance on how to prepare applications is provided in the Notice of Funding Opportunity (NOFO) available online at Grants.gov and Grantsolutions.gov. The NOFO should be read carefully to ensure that applications meet all eligibility requirements and are complete upon submission.
The Service is accepting applications for the FY 2023 Habitat Conservation Plan Land Acquisition Grants award cycle through March 2, 2023.