A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is an agreement between the federal government and private landowners. It is a requirement of the Incidental Take Permit (ITP) outlining the steps that the private landowner will take to reduce and relieve the impacts of the “incidental intake” of the covered endangered species. As a result, its main function is to protect and an endangered species from activities, such as killing a specific wildlife species or destroying its habitats that might lead to extinction. HCPs are varied and diverse as the habitats they aim to protect. One example is the Stanford University HCP. It was developed because of the rapidly expanding campus infrastructure that could threaten the California red-legged frog (Rana aurora draytonii), California tiger salamander (Ambystoma Californians), and San Francisco garter snake (Thamnophis sirtalis tetrataenia).
The California red-legged frog is the largest frog native to California. It is mainly identified by its rich red-colored lower proximities and green-brown or red-pink upper proximities. They were enlisted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species in 1996 (Stanford University, 2013). On the other hand, the California tiger salamander, also native to California, was enlisted as a threatened species in 2004. The San Francisco garter snake at Stanford is regarded to be an intergrade between the San Francisco garter snake and the red-sided garter snake. It has been collected illegally since 1967 when it was used in the pet trade (Stanford University, 2013). As a result, the ITP would enable Stanford University to proceed with long-term land use and academic planning, while at the same time stabilizing or even increasing the populations of these species, and enhancing their habitat. Furthermore, it is essential to note that since the HCP covers three species, it included both the general and specific habitats for this wildlife. For instance, they all occupy aquatic habitats. The tiger salamander and red-legged frogs require slow-moving water or pools for breeding and adjacent upland areas for foraging and dispersal (Barry & Shaffer, 1994; Bulger et al., 2003). Likewise, although garter snakes are found in various environments, they often reside in areas containing ponds or creeks, which are surrounded by vegetation.
The HCP procedures outlined for the preservation of these three species are not controversial as they are being enacted on private land at Stanford University. Moreover, the actions described are feasible and reasonable. First and foremost, with regards to implementation costs, the Stanford University plan would cost approximately $300,000 to $500,000 annually (Stanford University, 2013). These expenses seem to be covered by the sufficient revenue that the institution can generate from financial investments, income from rents, tuitions, and private contributions. This aligns with Institutional Goal #4, which advocates for implementing cost-effective conservation measures that can be covered by the University’s assets. Moreover, Stanford University’s Biological goals accurately reflect the Five Points Policy as it describes the desired outcome for the covered species and their habitats based on biological goals and objectives. The general and specific objectives formulated provide a framework for developing and implementing the integrated conservation program during the life of the HCP. They also act as a benchmark for assessing the probability of the program’s success. With regards to Biological Goal #3 and #5, Stanford University aims to preserve aquatic habitats, including Lagunita reservoirs, creeks, detention basins, and water wells (Stanford University, 2013).
The conservation strategies seem to be effective, and this is resthe ult of the sufficient amount of habitat set aside to guarantee the survival of the threatened species. For instance, the preserves are configured in larger, regional blocks referred to as zones. Stanford University HCP constitutes four management zones that are classified based on the habitat value of the land to the covered species. Zone 1 is critical to the California red-legged frog, California tiger salamander, and San Francisco garter snake; Zone 2 holds relative benefits to the species; Zone 3 comprises undeveloped open space lands that are desirable for future development; and Zone 4 consists of urbanized areas that cannot support the Covered Species. Therefore, with differentiation into zones, Stanford University can easily achieve Biological Goals #1, #2, #4, and #5, thus stabilizing or increasing the population of the covered species (Stanford University, 2013).
Third, Stanford’s academic institutional goals align with its biological goals. Institutional Goal #3 advocates for the creation and implementation of conservation programs that encompass land use planning policies and practices. In the HCP, it is stated that the Conservation Program Manager will develop an education program for maintenance workers working in Zones 1 and 2. The program will constitute the Covered Species and include protocols for identification, avoidance, and immediate protection. This concerts with the Biological Goals #1, #4, and #5 that aim to increase the population of the Covered Species and heighten their probability of long-term persistence at Stanford University (Stanford University, 2013). Despite its feasibility, the key concern of this HCP revolves around the consideration of the broader ecosystem. Aside from the Covered Species, there are also several other animal and plant species, both native and non-native, that add up to the approximately 910 species found in the Stanford area. Examples of special status animal species that have not been covered in the plan comprise steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), Western pond turtle (Actinemys marmorata), and Western burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia hypogea) (Stanford University, 2013). The Western pond turtle resides in a variety of habitats, which include creeks, ponds, and other riverine systems, as well as traveling to the land for various reasons (Reese & Welsh Jr., 1997). Therefore, to be all-around, the HCP should seek to protect multiple species instead of single species within broad ecosystem functions.
Barry, S.J., & Shaffer, H.B. (1994). The status of the California tiger salamander (Ambystoma Californians) at Lagunita: A 50-year update. Journal of Herpetology, 28(2), 159–164. Web.
Bulger, J.B., Scott, N. J., & Seymour, R.B. (2003). Terrestrial activity and conservation of adult California red-legged frogs Rana aurora draytonii in coastal forests and grasslands. Biological Conservation, 110(1), 85-95. Web.
Reese, D.A., & Welsh Jr., H.H. (1997). Use of terrestrial habitat by western pond turtles, Clemmys marmorata: Implications for management. Proceedings: Conservation, Restoration, and Management of Turtles and Tortoises, 352-357. Web,
Stanford University. (2013). Stanford University habitat conservation plan. Web.