The Daily Tribune News

Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan heads to Fish & Wildlife

Rebecca Long
Staff Writer
Published September 20, 2006 10:54 PM CDT

Bartow County Commissioner Clarence Brown approved a resolution Wednesday to accept and submit the recently drafted Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. The plan would eliminate the need for "incidental take" permits for developers, which can add months to a project.

Passed by Congress in 1966, the Federal Endangered Species Act requires county and city officials to apply for an incidental take permit any time a development project has the possibility to adversely affect a threatened or endangered species or its habitat. This can mean a single project could have several applications for incidental take permits since the permits must be issued for each of the endangered species potentially affected, a process Brown referred to as lengthy and expensive.

"I can tell you from experience with the Old Alabama project that it took almost two years to go through all this," Brown said.

According to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, more than 430 Habitat Conservation Plans have been approved, with more in the planning stage. To be approved by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the plan must meet several requirements, including showing that impacts on the endangered species would be minimized and the "taking" or harm to the species would not significantly reduce the likelihood of its survival and recovery. It could take as long as a year before a decision is made on the Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan.

While the plan was developed by Bartow County, not all areas within the county would receive the same scrutiny. Surveys have already been completed to determine in which of three risk categories locations would fall.

"Certain parts of the county would not be covered by this," County Administrator Steve Bradley said. "The categories are based on potential threat to endangered species."

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