The Role of Local Government in the Conservation of Rare Species

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Humanities, Social Sciences and the Arts (HMC)

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In the U.S. rare and endangered species protection is a public policy responsibility commonly ascribed to the federal or state governments. We make three related claims: 1) the scale of local and regional land use control and open-space acquisitions matches the range sizes of many rare, endemic species, 2) land acquisition is the most attractive approach to conserving many rare taxa, especially endangered flora, and 3) at least some local governments and non-governmental organizations have the policy capacity necessary to identify, acquire, and manage critical habitats for endangered species. Although local involvement can have conservation payoffs throughout the United States, we focus on California in general and, in particular, use as a case study the biology and political resources of four adjoining counties in the central coast region of the state: San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Santa Clara, and Monterey. We close with a discussion of policy implications for coordinating local, state, and federal conservation efforts. These include 1) brokering land acquisition deals with input from public land managers and private owners, 2) shifting funding priorities for rare, well-known species away from research to habitat acquisition and management, and 3) encouraging biologists to invest more effort in local land use regulations so that they may make more effective use of local land management and conservation opportunities.

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© 1996 John Wiley and Sons

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