News and CommentEcology

Qualified Thumbs Up for Habitat Plan Science

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Science  19 Dec 1997:
Vol. 278, Issue 5346, pp. 2052-2053
DOI: 10.1126/science.278.5346.2052

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Mark PlummerSANTA BARBARA, CALIFORNIA-- Last week, 106 grad students from eight universities, led by 13 ecologists, completed an initial assessment of the science behind a divisive environmental policy tool: habitat-conservation plans (HCPs), agreements that allow developers to harm endangered species in return for specified efforts to protect habitat. A growing chorus of environmentalists and scientists has argued that many HCPs are flawed and effectively promote extinction. But at a meeting here last week at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, the new assessment offered a different view: HCPs are far from the junk-science giveaways to developers depicted by their harshest critics. Although the group also reported that the plans are frequently plagued by inadequate monitoring and a lack of important data, the analysis puts HCPs in a better light.