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The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is proposing to change rules associated with habitat conservation plans (HCPs), candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAAs), and safe harbor agreements (SHAs) under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). USFWS wants to increase the use of these voluntary conservation and compliance tools by simplifying and clarifying the process and documentation.


  • The proposed rule changes will affect future incidental take permits and enhancement of survival permits, not existing permits.
  • USFWS plans to clarify the application of CCAAs and SHAs and combine these tools into one planning document, known as a “conservation benefit agreement.”
  • USFWS plans to provide additional flexibility for HCPs to issue permits covering non-listed species.
  • USFWS will revise requirements for complete permit applications by codifying parts of current policy guidance on biological goals and objectives, monitoring, and adaptive management.
  • USFWS plans to clarify that these permits authorize take of species but does not authorize the specific action that causes take.
  • USFWS plans to clarify that it can add terms and conditions to permits that may include additional conservation measures, monitoring and reporting requirements, and permit duration limits.

These new regulations could encourage additional public involvement in conservation of listed and non-listed species once a permit application is deemed complete. These changes may impact components such as baseline condition, duration of the permit, conservation measures, and decision to issue a permit by USFWS.


USFWS seeks input from the public by April 10, 2023. Submit your comments electronically through the Federal eRulemaking Portal at


Whether you are currently operating under an SHA, CCAA, or HCP, or are contemplating one to achieve compliance with the ESA, we are here to help you navigate the process. Contact SWCA’s ESA experts to help you understand how the new proposed regulations might affect you or your business. Our team of experts can help you navigate the new proposed rule and assist you with crafting comments so that your voice will be heard.

stephanie [dot] graham [at] swca [dot] com (subject: Proposed%20Changes%20to%20Endangered%20Species%20Act%20Permits%20and%20Conservation%20Plans) (Stephanie Graham) | Rockies

lauren [dot] huff [at] swca [dot] com (subject: Proposed%20Changes%20to%20Endangered%20Species%20Act%20Permits%20and%20Conservation%20Plans) (Lauren Huff) | West

aglen [at] swca [dot] com (subject: Proposed%20Changes%20to%20Endangered%20Species%20Act%20Permits%20and%20Conservation%20Plans) (Amanda Glen) | Central/East