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Sage Scrub Revolution? Property Rights, Political Fragmentation, and Conservation Planning in Southern California under the Federal Endangered Species Act

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In the U.S., conservation planning under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA) has increasingly applied to species and habitats located on private property in urbanizing regions. Under the ESAs Section 10(a), habitat conservation plans (HCPs) provide mechanisms for local governments, private landowners, and other stakeholders to proceed with development plans while at the same time undertaking conservation measures for federally listed species. Using a “reconstructed urban regime theory” approach to local policymaking, this paper examines the development of a subregional HCP for the protection of the federally listed Stephens’ Kangaroo Rat (SKR) in western Riverside County, Southern California. Empirically, we demonstrate problems of incorporating property externalities into a subregional planning process and the various ways in which landowners and local progrowth interests have mobilized in response to HCPs developed within the federal ESA framework. Theoretically, we emphasize uneven development within Southern California's suburban-oriented mode of social regulation, which also provides a structural context for evaluating recent moves toward multispecies and ecosystem planning under the State of California’s Natural Communities Conservation Planning (NCCP) framework. A pilot NCCP program for the coastal sage scrub ecosystem is fragmenting into a loosely coordinated amalgam of subregional HCPs developed under diverse local policy regimes. The paper critically discusses the extent to which ecosystem planning in Southern California represents a revolution in the role of the U.S. government in managing conflicts arising from conservation measures on private property in urbanizing regions.
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Keywords: Endangered Species Act; Natural Community Conservation Planning; Southern California; coastal sage scrub ecosystem; habitat conservation planning; political fragmentation; property rights; social regulation; suburban land development

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Natural Sciences, Joliet Junior College, 2: Department of Geography, University of Hull

Publication date: 2000-06-01

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