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"No Surprise HCPs?" Not Anymore

In 1998, the Fish & Wildlife Service acted to give residential real estate developers some comfort when it came to obtaining permits to build. The developers had been hit in the past with "surprises" after they obtained permits. Commonly, new information about endangered species would come to light, and prevent development - typically after a rather substantial financial investment by the developer to get ready to build.

The FWS came up with the "no surprises" rule in response. Once you got a permit, it stayed valid.

Guess what? The developers just got handed a surprise. Seems that some environmentalists, the Spirit of the Sage Council and five others, didn't like that rule.

They thought that the rule, designed to give finality to Habitat Conservation Plans simply allowed species to go extinct.

Homebuilders are none too happy. "Now, a permit isn't worth the paper it's written on," said Duane Desiderio, a vice president of the National Association of Home Builders. He described the ruling as a serious setback for his industry, especially because most species whose survival is imperiled are found on private property and near developed areas. The NAHB pressroom doesn't have much else to say.

The court has stayed further implementation of the rule until mid-December, and sent the FWS back to the drawing board to get additional public input to rewrite the rule.

We've not heard the last of this one yet.

Posted by J. Craig Williams on Saturday, June 12, 2004

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