Golden Eagle Coverage Questioned

By Matt Adams

   The County of San Diego received notice from the US Fish and Wildlife Service that coverage for the Golden Eagle under the Multiple Species Conservation Program (MSCP) will now be limited to four of the eleven golden eagle territories in the MSCP South County Plan rather than the entire Subarea Plan. The notice raised serious questions from the BIA and others from the regulated community since the Golden Eagle is on the covered species list for the now 20-year old conservation document.
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The December letter sent to County Deputy Chief Administrative Officer, Sarah Aghassi, cited the 2009 Bald and Golden Eagle Act regulations, as well as the recently adopted 2016 revisions to those regulations, as the reason for the coverage modification. Neither of those should have any effect on the assurances in the MSCP. The MSCP contract between the Service and local jurisdictions contains specific protocols that must be followed before any major changes can occur. The MSCP is considered a national model in habitat conservation that created a 170,000-acre wildlife preserve in exchange for regulatory certainty in the remaining developable areas. Left unchallenged, it poses significant impact on several projects throughout San Diego County and threatens the integrity of current and future habitat conservation plans.