An example of using satellite data to identify potential Habitat Conservation Plan non-compliance.
Abstract: Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) permit non-federal landowners to develop their land and potentially harm species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in return for conservation actions that benefit the species. While permittees are required to submit monitoring reports, HCPs should be subject to independent monitoring to ensure compliance. The Langboard HCP accompanies a 30-year (1997-2027) Incidental Take Permit (ITP) for eastern indigo snakes (Drymarchon corais couperi) on 45.29 acres of the Langboard, Inc., particle board facility in Willacoochee, Georgia. I used freely available aerial imagery from 1993-2014 to show that Langboard, Inc., has cleared ~14.2 acres of mitigation habitat, in apparent violation of the permit. In addition, ~23.3 acres have been cleared immediately adjacent to the area covered by the ITP, as have ~65.7 acres on other areas of the property. These blocks, plus several others not directly addressed in the HCP, total ~150 acres that have been developed at the property. During the same time span, ~150 acres of previous pasture habitat have been reforested on the property. This review underscores the value and ease of using free remotely sensed imagery to monitor the status of permitted activities. Furthermore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service should revisit the Langboard HCP to determine a proper course of action for potential violation of the terms of the ITP.