Butterfly Conservation Takes Flight!


Butterflies are experiencing rapid population declines from threats such as habitat loss, habitat fragmentation, development, fire, climate change, drought, and invasive species. In May 2022, the Board of Supervisors adopted a Resolution accepting the Fiscal Year 2021 Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund: Habitat Conservation Plan Planning Assistance grant (Grant). This federal Grant will enable Planning & Development Services (PDS) to develop a long-term, regional strategy, called a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP), to help contribute to the recovery of sensitive butterfly populations in the region. Five species, including the federally endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly and Laguna Mountains skipper, federally threatened Hermes copper butterfly, narrow endemic Harbison’s dun skipper, and the federal candidate Monarch butterfly, will be examined and potentially covered by the Regional Butterflies HCP.


What is an HCP?

HCP is a planning document that endeavors to conserve the habitats of sensitive species, particularly those listed as threatened or endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), and thus contributes to their recovery. The HCP anticipates future impacts to “Covered Species” from future development, agricultural, and public projects and activities, called “Covered Activities.” The HCP will also identify conservation measures and implementation strategies to avoid, minimize, or mitigate potential impacts.

The federal ESA prohibits the “take” of listed species which includes activities that could directly or indirectly harm listed species. Development and implementation of the Regional Butterflies HCP will allow the County to seek a federal incidental take permit that allows impacts to the butterfly species covered by the plan. Upon receipt of this permit from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, the County would be able to extend this permission to future public and private projects in the unincorporated County that comply with the conservation provisions of the plan rather than seeking project specific approval from an outside agency.

As with the Multiple Species Conservation Program, the Regional Butterflies HCP can be integrated into the existing PDS permitting process to assure a more predictable and structured process. As public and private projects are built or permitted, the conservation measures outlined in the Regional Butterflies HCP will be implemented, resulting in interconnected habitat made up of both publicly acquired and privately owned lands under easement. Under the HCP, habitats will be restored, enhanced, and conserved to create large, resilient preserves capable of supporting viable populations to help recover sensitive butterfly species.

Learn more about the project

For more information on how the plan will work, and to stay up to date on the project, please subscribe to updates on County Conservation and check out the Regional Butterflies HCP website.