What Happens When an Endangered Species Moves into Your Project?

by | May 31, 2023 | Environmental Law

California’s environmental protections are one of the biggest hurdles you’ll likely have when preparing for your development projects. Once you’ve broken ground, you’re usually in good shape, but an unwelcome visitor can stop everything. When an endangered species suddenly takes up residence on your property, development is likely to come to an immediate halt. However, all is not lost, at least not permanently. In taking the right steps, progressing towards your developmental goals is possible.

In the short term

Immediately upon the discovery of an endangered species on an active construction site, the state will order a cessation of work. When that happens, you will have to engage experts to investigate the full extent of the impact on your project and wait for their assessment. It could be that the species is migrating through, and they’ll not be there for long.

It could be that the species is taking up permanent residence. If that’s the case, then your plans will have to change.

The long-term outlook

Further down the road, if your project is not a temporary spot for the animal, you’ll have to consider your options. One possible option is to consider a “safe harbor agreement” to leave that section of the property alone and develop a plan that accommodates the new neighbor. This is, of course, only possible in certain circumstances, such as residential development or other projects that have enough acreage to afford that kind of space.

In other cases, the federal government does have the authority to remove or “take” animals. However, for this to be exercised, you’d need to make a convincing argument for the continued development of your project across several local and federal agencies.

Flexible, consistent advocacy

These administrative issues often lead to a formal court appearance, especially if you cannot reach an operating agreement. Having the skilled representation of a dedicated team that knows environmental law can definitely help.