The Case Of The Missing HCP
Another Marana mystery is solved! This time its about wildlife and habitat.
What the heck is an HCP?
HCP is the acronym for Habitat Conservation Plan. The federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) prevents the "take" of threatened and endangered species and their habitat. Section 10 of the ESA allows for "incidental take" of threatened and endangered species by developing and implementing an HCP that provides protection and mitigation from the effects of a potential take. HCPs can cover areas of various sizes but generally encompasses very large acreage.
The term Multiple-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) is also used for very large plans that include several threatened and endangered species.
You can learn more about HCPs at the National HCP Coalition Website.
Marana HCP Found
Heard stories over the last two years that Marana developed an HCP. After several searches, no HCP could be found. Then during recent discussions with Marana about the Tortolita Preserve, TA asked directly about the Marana HCP and finally it was revealed that it exists and we were provided a copy. The Marana HCP (still marked Draft) and the Exhibits can be viewed by clicking on the button below.
Marana HCP Features
The Marana HCP process started in December 2002 and the final Draft is marked January 2009. The Marana HCP was developed with input from various stakeholders including residents, scientists and regulatory agencies during this 6 year period.
The Marana HCP Planning Area covers 168,000 acres (orange box) and the Permit Area covers the entire Town boundary (67,000 acres). See Figure 1.2 from the Marana HCP (left).
The Marana HCP covers 13 species as shown in Table 1.1 (below).
The Marana HCP has three primary Conservation Zones and Wildlife Corridors (see map below):
Zone 1-Santa Cruz River Riparian Area (yellow)
Zone 2-Tortolita Fan (green)
Zone 3-South Marana (blue)
How Would The Marana HCP Work?
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USF&WS) would ultimately approve the Marana HCP and issue an Incidental Take Permit (Permit) for the covered activities. The length of the permit is proposed to be 25 years.
Covered activities include; (1) Town of Marana infrastructure construction and maintenance, (2) residential, commercial and industrial development subject to rezoning or other discretionary action and (3) residential, commercial and industrial development not subject to rezoning or other discretionary action that is voluntarily included in the HCP.
For example, Zone 2 (Tortolita Fan) includes 26,064 acres of which 19,323 acres is developable (discretionary + entitled). The Marana HCP calls for 80% of the developable land to be preserved as Natural Undisturbed Open Space (NUOS). For all three covered activities, this equates to the protection of 15,458 acres as NUOS. See Marana HCP Table 4.2.
This is in addition to the 2,400 acres already protected by the Tortolita Preserve (TP). Very interesting that they considered TP a protected area in 2009. Thanks to TA and its members it is still protected!
What Happened To The Marana HCP?
As reported in Pygmy-owl Update,the Pygmy-owl was de-listed as an endangered species on 5/15/06 under pressure from the National Homebuilders Association! This de-listing, and most likely pressure from the local developers, caused Marana officials to put the Marana HCP on a shelve in a vault at the Municipal Complex. To our knowledge, the Marana HCP was never acted upon by the Marana Town Council. Talk about lack of transparency!
Imagine if the Marana HCP had been adopted and a Permit issued:
Perhaps we would not be sending out pictures of bulldozers toppling over large multi-arm saguaros.
Perhaps the current Marana Municipal Code Chapter 17-11 Environmental Resource Preservation, Native Plant Protection and Landscape Requirements would include an 80% NUOS rather than the current voluntary 30% NUOS.