Conservation Plans (CPs)
When non-Federal entities such as states, counties, local governments, and private landowners wish to conduct an otherwise lawful activity that might incidentally, but not intentionally, "take" a listed species, an incidental take permit (ESA section 10(a)(1)(B)) must first be obtained from NOAA Fisheries. To receive a permit, the applicant must submit a Conservation Plan (CP) that meets the criteria included in the ESA and its implementing regulations. Because many CPs are habitat-based, the term Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is often used interchangably with CP.
CPs are designed to offset harmful effects a proposed activity might have on listed species. CPs also provide additional conservation benefits and flexibility for landowners by including planning for unlisted species. This proactive approach can reduce future conflicts and may even preclude listing of species, furthering the purposes of the ESA. The CP process also provides an opportunity to develop strong partnerships with local governments and the private sector. NOAA Fisheries also follows policies and guidances associated with the CP process.