The Guam Department of Agriculture, in collaboration with the University of Guam Center for Island Sustainability, is developing the Guam Island-wide Habitat Conservation Plan (Guam HCP), which is a long-term conservation tool that will protect and conserve threatened and endangered species and their habitats and support Guam’s rich biological and cultural heritage for future generations to enjoy while facilitating sustainable economic development and regulatory streamlining. The HCP will inform future land use planning processes and support sustainable implementation of existing land use plans.
The HCP will be the first of its kind anywhere in the Mariana Islands and will function as a long-term conservation tool that supports the protection of threatened and endangered species, or those species that are likely to become listed as such in the future, while allowing for development to continue consistent with the HCP.
An HCP is a planning document required as a part of an application for a federally granted endangered species permit- known as an incidental take permit (ITP). The Guam HCP supports the Guam Department of Agriculture’s application for an ITP from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under Section 10(a)(1)(B) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The HCP will also further the purposes of the Guam Endangered Species Act (Guam ESA) by providing standards to comply with the Guam ESA. The Guam ESA, implemented by the Guam Department of Agriculture, prohibits take of plants and wildlife species listed as threatened or endangered in Guam.
Purpose of the Guam HCP
Several bat and bird species have been listed as endangered in Guam for many years, but many of these species are either presumed extinct, extirpated in Guam, only exist as captive populations, or exist in very low numbers in the wild. Most of these species became extinct or extirpated because of the accidental introduction in the 1940s of the brown tree snake (Boiga irregularis). Since that time, the brown tree snake has proliferated throughout Guam and decimated native bird, bat, and lizard populations. Threats to Guam’s native species have continued to increase because of expanding urban development.
In addition to the presence of listed species, Guam supports approximately 13,000 acres of native limestone forest, which provides habitat for most of the species listed in 2015 (Amidon et. al. 2017). Limestone forest has been particularly affected by ongoing development on the island because of its occurrence mostly in the coastal northern portion of the island where growth and development have historically been concentrated. Threats to listed species from habitat loss and degradation are expected to increase in intensity as the human population and associated development on Guam continue to grow.
Goals of the Guam HCP
The Guam HCP team has developed a list of goals to guide HCP development:
- Improve the sustainability and resilience of Guam’s natural environment by protecting and managing lands, with an emphasis on the highest-quality sites that support the covered species.
- Protect the ecological and cultural heritage of Guam by contributing to the recovery of listed species or those that may become listed under the Federal ESA or the Endangered Species Act of Guam.
- Provide an effective mechanism to protect from development the irreplaceable limestone forests of Guam and reduce/eliminate threats to the covered species supported by this ecosystem.
- Improve freshwater and marine water quality by conserving watersheds and restoring terrestrial drainages to the ocean.
- Enhance local recreational and educational opportunities and facilitate agricultural viability.
- Provide a comprehensive, consistent, and timely approach to compliance with the Federal ESA and the Endangered Species Act of Guam.
- Raise awareness, increase understanding, and promote behavior change towards stewardship of the ecological, social, and cultural significance of the natural resources in Guam and the importance of endangered species and healthy and functioning ecosystems.
- Support soil and water conservation efforts by the respective Guam Soil and Water Conservation Districts.
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