Cover: Balancing Environment and Development

Balancing Environment and Development

Costs, Revenues, and Benefits of the Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan

Published Oct 18, 2008

by Lloyd Dixon, Paul Sorensen, Martin Wachs, Myles T. Collins, Mark Alan Hanson, Aaron Kofner, Thomas Light, Michael Madsen, Lindell Marsh, Adrian Overton, et al.


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The Western Riverside County Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (MSHCP) is an ambitious effort to balance development and environmental concerns in an area of rapid urban growth. In return for setting up a 500,000-acre conservation reserve, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game granted the county and cities in western Riverside County a 75-year “take” permit for endangered species. The take permit allows the cities and county to approve development projects outside the reserve that could negatively affect 146 sensitive plant and animal species. The plan is supposed to speed the frequently time-consuming and litigious process of permitting new highway and development projects while establishing an integrated conservation reserve rather than the patchwork of uncoordinated reserves that was so often the case in the past. The Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority (RCA) acquires land for and manages the reserve. This monograph examines the value of the land needed for the reserve, the financial consequences of acquiring the land over different periods of time, and the projected costs of operating the reserve. It compares projected costs and revenues and identifies potential funding sources to fill any resulting funding gap. It also examines the prospect for achieving the MSHCP's habitat-conservation goals and whether the MSHCP has, in fact, streamlined the permitting processes. Finally, it identifies issues that the RCA Board of Directors, RCA staff, and stakeholders should address to ensure the plan's success and the ongoing economic and ecological health of the county.

The research described in this monograph was supported by the Western Riverside County Regional Conservation Authority and was conducted under the auspices of the Transportation, Space, and Technology Program within RAND Infrastructure, Safety, and Environment.

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