Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) are planning documents required as part of an application for an incidental take permit. They describe the anticipated effects of the proposed taking; how those impacts will be minimized, or mitigated; and how the HCP is to be funded. HCPs can apply to both listed and nonlisted species, including those that are candidates or have been proposed for listing. Conserving species before they are in danger of extinction or are likely to become so can also provide early benefits and prevent the need for listing.
HCPs come with what are reffered to as “No Surprises” assurances (or regulatory assurances), which means essentially, that State and private landowners are assured that if “unforeseen circumstances” arise, the federal agencies will not require the commitment of additional land, water, or financial compensation or additional restrictions on the use of land, water, or other natural resources beyond the level otherwise agreed to in the HCP without the consent of the permitholder. The government will honor these assurances as long as permitholders are implementing the terms and conditions of the HCPs, permits, and other associated documents in good faith. In effect, the government and permit-holders pledge to honor their conservation commitments.