Court Temporarily Halts Builder-Friendly Land Policy

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Until recently, landowners could sell wildlife lands to the federal government for a market value so fair it rivaled the profits from developing that land.

November 01, 2003
Learn more about the Habitat Conservation Planning program on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Web site at http://endangered.fws.gov/policies/index.html#hcp.

 

 

Until recently, landowners could sell wildlife lands to the federal government for a market value so fair it rivaled the profits from developing that land, say experts, including Ed Balsdon, an environmental economist and professor at San Diego State University.

Under the federal Habitat Conservation Planning program, the government paid builders to set aside undeveloped land while allowing them to develop portions where development was deemed risk-free to the habitat. Land nationwide remains eligible for the program.

But on Sept. 30, a federal district court in Washington effectively placed a moratorium on new applications. The eco-activist group Spirit of the Sage Council sued and won a court decision against a "no surprises" policy linked to the permitting process. "No surprises," simply put, protects landowners from liability. For instance, the government couldn't rescind terms of a completed HCP deal unless the deal threatened an entire species for some unforeseen reason.

HCP applications already received will continue being processed.

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