The Guam Department of Agriculture’s (DOAG) Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources (DAWR) has been awarded $999,100 in federal funds through the Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund Grant Program.
The grant award will be used to develop an Island-Wide Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) for Guam and provide for the development of a collaborative and comprehensive plan for conservation of endangered species and their habitats. This is a three-year grant award and is the first of its kind for Guam and the Marianas Islands.
The development of the Island-Wide HCP will involve three phases. Phase 1 involves initiating the HCP, gathering data, and initiating stakeholder involvement. Phase 2 involves preparing an administrative draft HCP. Phase 3 involves preparing a draft EIS and final documents. This HCP grant will cover Phase 1 and Phase 2 of the project.
An HCP is required to obtain a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the take of listed species. Under current Guam statute, “take” is defined as “hunt, pursue, catch, capture, angle, seize, kill, trap, harm, shoot in any way or by any agency or device.”
With the development of an Island-Wide HCP, DOAG will provide an avenue for applicants that will: be streamlined, be cost‐effective, provide a means to obtain “take”-authorization; and protect listed species and their habitats.
“The creation of an Island-Wide HCP will enable us to protect habitats for endangered and threatened species while providing a course of action for responsible development,” said Chelsa Muna-Brecht, Director of DOAG. “This will be beneficial to Guam’s residents, construction industry, and our wildlife. We are thankful for Governor Leon Guerrero and Lt. Governor Tenorio’s support to bring progressive movement in aligning conservation and economic development. DAWR is delivering and we are proud of our team.”
Currently, if an endangered species is located on the development property during the biological assessment portion of the permit approval process, the development must cease. The project may not move forward until it has been reconfigured to work around the location of the endangered species.
In some cases, the project cannot be reconfigured or the development is unable to accommodate the endangered species. For those cases, the developer is left with two options: cease development in the area permanently or complete a private HCP for that specific location, which can lengthen the time of the project and increase costs.