Over 23 years ago, farmers, ranchers, agencies, and Foster Creek Conservation District (FCCD) came together to create the Douglas County Multiple Species General Conservation Plan (MSGCP) to help protect species of concern like the Columbia Basin Pygmy Rabbit that is now federally endangered. Under the MSGCP, producers whose farming or ranching activities could potentially result in the accidental death of a federally listed species, are able to obtain a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP). This plan is submitted to the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and, if accepted, provides the producer with a permit that allows the accidental “take” of a species during their normal farming activities without concern of prosecution. “Take” is defined as an attempt to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect.
The HCP and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) conservation planning both start with the same information gathering to gain an understanding of resource concerns and any impacts on wildlife. Both plans also encourage actions that aim to preserve and enhance habitat for wildlife, such as switching to conservation tillage to reduce soil erosion or starting grazing rotations to improve pasture health. Because of this overlap, the NRCS and FCCD are working together to help make things easier for producers by sharing information for those participating with both organizations. This allows you, as the producer to save time and potentially receive funding for conservation practices if you chose to do this. It will also streamline the process for you to apply for an incidental take permit from USFWS. Rest assured, any information you have provided the NRCS Is protected under the federal Privacy Act, whether it is in the hands of NRCS or the FCCD. Both the producer and Douglas County wildlife benefit from this cooperation!
Currently, the MSGCP program is prioritizing producers in northern Douglas County, an important region of habitat for the state endangered Greater Sage Grouse and an area that was severely impacted by the Pearl Hill fire in 2020. This also overlaps funding available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for producers who have been impacted by the Grass Valley Fire and have resource concerns that may require some post fire mitigation.
If you live or farm in northern Douglas County and are interested in an HCP and obtaining an incidental take permit, or have any questions about this process, please contact FCCD’s Angela Orpet at 509-449-5021, or the NRCS at 509-745-8362.