The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) approved the Renewable (Wind and Solar) Energy, Power Line, and Communication Tower Habitat Conservation Plan for the Lesser Prairie-chicken (HCP) and associated incidental take permit (ITP) in December 2021. The HCP is designed to minimize and offset up to 500,000 ac of impacts to lesser prairie-chicken (LEPC) habitat from renewable energy, communication tower, and power line development. Mitigation provided under the HCP will support the USFWS’s “stronghold” approach, which includes protecting and expanding existing strongholds and other areas of relatively high-quality habitat and suitable patch size to support viable lesser prairie-chicken populations, and restoring currently unsuitable habitat.
The HCP is operated under a Programmatic structure. LPC Conservation, LLC, a special purpose entity owned by Common Ground Capital, LLC, serves as the HCP Administrator and ITP-holder. Industry proponents (or associated project LLCs) interested in participating in the HCP and seeking take coverage under the ITP can enroll individual projects under the HCP and ITP via a Certificate of Inclusion (CI). Enrollment in the HCP provides a streamlined process for renewable energy, communication tower, and power line projects to achieve LEPC Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance through a structured and USFWS agreed-upon approach for determining avoidance and minimization measures, estimating take, and calculating compensatory mitigation to offset impacts to LEPC on a project-by-project basis. CI-holders will receive regulatory certainty under the ITP for their enrolled projects for the duration of the ITP term, so long as CI-holders remain in compliance with the obligations and responsibilities identified in the CI, HCP, and ITP. Liability under the ITP is severable among the CI-holders, such that one CI-holder’s failure to comply with the HCP or ITP will not be attributed to or otherwise adversely affect the other CI-holders’ rights, privileges, and benefits under the ITP.