Desert Conservation & MSHCP

Desert Conservation & MSHCP

Clark County Desert Conservation Program & the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)?

What is the Clark County Desert Conservation Program & the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP)?
Clark County, as Plan Administrator and on behalf of our fellow permittees: the cities of Las Vegas, Henderson, North Las Vegas, Boulder City, Mesquite and the Nevada Department of Transportation, is responsible for compliance with the federal Endangered Species Act, compliance with a Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit, and for implementing the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan.

An incidental take permit exempts a permittee from the take prohibition of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act and is issued by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Act.  The permit authorizes take of protected species that may be incidental to, but not the purpose of, otherwise lawful activities.

A habitat conservation plan, commonly referred to as an HCP, is a planning document that is a mandatory component of an incidental take permit application.  An HCP ensures that the authorized take will be adequately minimized and mitigated.  You can find the plan and permit documents here.
What are the goals and objectives of the MSHCP?
The general measurable biological goals for each covered species are listed in table 2.5, page 2.153 of the MSHCP.  In summary, the goal for each covered species is no net unmitigated loss or fragmentation of habitat, primarily within IMA and LIMA, or MUMA where a substantial proportion of the species habitat occurs within MUMA.  In addition, the MSHCP has a general goal of stable or increasing populations of covered species. Measurable biological objectives broadly include (a) maintenance of the long-term net habitat value of the ecosystems in Clark County with a particular emphasis on Covered Species, and (b) recovery of listed species and conservation of unlisted Covered Species. Appendixes A and B of the Plan contain the current evaluation of habitat values within each ecosystem and for each species.
What area is covered by the MSHCP?
The MSHCP's Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit covers all non-Federal (private, municipal, state) lands within Clark County and NDOT activities in areas within Clark, Nye, Lincoln and Esmeralda Counties south of the 38th parallel and below 5,000 feet in elevation.  You can find a map of the MSHCP Plan Area here.
What species are covered by the MSHCP?  What habitat types?
78 species are covered by the MSHCP's Section 10(a)(1)(B) incidental take permit (14 reptiles, 1 amphibian, 8 birds, 4 mammals, 8 insects, 2 crustaceans and 41 plants.)  Of these, two are listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act, the threatened desert tortoise and the endangered Southwestern Willow Flycatcher, and the threatened yellow-billed cuckoo.  A complete list of covered species can be found by clicking here. Conservation actions for the MSHCP focus on conservation of the habitat of covered species.  Habitats for covered species are described and summarized within 11 ecosystem categories: alpine, bristlecone pine, mixed conifer, pinyon-juniper, sagebrush, blackbrush, salt desert scrub, Mojave desert scrub, mesquite/catclaw, and desert aquatic/riparian.  You can find a map of these ecosystem categories here.
Does the MSHCP rely on adjoining land use?
The MSHCP uses a reserve system consisting of public land (primarily Federal) areas defined by their kinds and levels of management as it affects Covered Species.  These conservation management areas are defined in section (page 2.74) of the MSHCP as Intensively Managed Areas (IMAs), Less Intensively Managed Areas (LIMAs), Multiple Use Managed Areas (MUMAs) and Unmanaged Areas (UMAs).  The IMAs and LIMAs represent the "reserve system".  A map of these management categories can be found by clicking here.  In recent years, however, the Desert Conservation Program has identified the need to transition to a more traditionally-defined reserve system, largely because of the difficultly in ensuring long-term durability of mitigation actions conducted on public lands that are not fully protected from development.  Currently, the program relies on a Reserve System consisting of private lands.  There are three Reserve Units within the Clark County Reserve System: the Boulder City Conservation Easement, the Muddy River Reserve Unit, and the Virgin River Reserve Unit.  Additional lands may be enrolled into the Reserve System in the future depending on availability and need.
What will the MSHCP do for listed species?
The MSHCP provides balance between allowing incidental take of listed, covered species and long-term conservation and recovery of those species and their habitat.  The conservation and recovery of covered species is accomplished through a suite of 604 potential conservation actions that minimize, mitigate or monitor the impacts of take.  The MSHCP has also been designed to maximize flexibility and available options in developing mitigation and conservation programs (MSHCP section 1.1, page 1.3).  By addressing the habitat need of covered species, the MSHCP also seeks to effectively mitigate future potential impacts on and assist in the recovery of a broad range of other species residing in all of the habitats located within the County (MSHCP section 1.2.1, page 1.5).
What will the MSHCP do for unlisted species?
Section 1.2.1 of the MSHCP states that the MSHCP "addresses the ESA Section 10 criteria for all Covered Species" and "treats all such Covered Species as though those species were listed for the purposes of this plan, thereby providing for future incidental take of those species." (page 1.5)
What provision is made for funding the MSHCP?
Section 2.1.9 of the MSHCP describes the $550 per acre disturbance fee to be paid for each non-municipal acre (up to 130,000) disturbed under the MSHCP Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit.  These fees are collected by the permittees (County, NDOT, Cities of  Boulder City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Mesquite, and North Las  Vegas) and collectively administered by the County in an endowment fund.   These funds would be used to implement the MSHCP.  In addition, external funding sources may be used to augment the section 10 funds.  External sources currently include Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act (SNPLMA) funds designated for the development of Multiple Species Habitat Conservation plan in Clark County.
Does the MSHCP comply with or require changes to other applicable laws?
The MSHCP complies with applicable laws.  When initiated, the MSHCP required amendments to two Federal agency land use plans, the Lake Mead National Recreation Area General Management Plan and the Spring Mountains National Recreation Area General Management Plan. 
How long will the MSHCP last?
The term of the permit is for 30 years effective February 2001, for a maximum of 145,000 acres disturbed. 
How will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP is being implemented?
Through regular reports such as the Biennial Progress Report and a biennial Adaptive Management Report. You can find these reports posted here.
How will the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service know if the MSHCP works?
The MSHCP's Adaptive Management Program is to evaluate the effectiveness of implementation actions and make recommendations for any changes in implementation in each Adaptive Management Report. You can find these reports here.
What if the MSHCP doesn't work?
If the MSHCP Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit is revoked, the Desert Conservation Plan and it's Section 10(a)(1)(B) permit remains in effect for take of desert tortoise in Clark County.  Additional take of desert tortoise beyond that covered by the Desert Conservation Plan, or for other listed species, would be applied for separately by each land owner.
When and how do developers pay the mitigation fee?
Prior to development on private property in Clark County, the developer must obtain a grading or building permit from the appropriate city or county agency.  The permitting office will collect a mitigation fee of $550 per acre, if one has not previously been paid.  See our Disturbance Fee page for more details.  This is a one-time fee that funds the Clark County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Program.  This program provides conservation for plant and animal species.  As long as developers comply with the law and secure proper permits prior to development, they are not required to conduct desert tortoise clearance surveys prior to disturbing land.  However, a tortoise must never be intentionally killed or harmed.  All developers and construction personnel are required to report desert tortoises on non-federal construction sites to the Wild Desert Tortoise Assistance Line (702-593-9027). For more information about what to do if you see a desert tortoise on your construction site, please refer to our developer requirements handout.
Why don't I see wildlife in the desert?
Much of the wildlife in Southern Nevada is nocturnal, and comes out only at night.  Furthermore, many of the reptiles of the desert spend most of their lives in underground burrows.  Reptiles seek shelter to escape the scorching heat of summer in the Mojave Desert.  Therefore, you may see desert temperatures drastically decline in October and November each year.  Desert tortoises, being reptiles, experience declining body temperatures during this time and they go into brumation (the reptilian form of hibernation).  This period of sleep usually lasts about 4-6 months and is followed by the tortoise coming out of brumation in the spring.

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