Habitat Plan Would Raise $1 Billion to Save Foxes, Turtles, Butterflies

New fees would allow developers to offset their harm to endangered species by supporting other species.

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    About $20 million would be collected over the next fifty years.

    Better habitats, faster permits, saving endangered species -- what's not to love about Santa Clara County's proposed habitat conservation plan?

    The plan covers most of Santa Clara County, according to the CC Times, and would require that developers offset damage to habitat by paying fees that allow the county to purchase and manage land.

    In exchange for paying the fee, developers would be allowed to bypass certain state and federal permits.

    It's expected that about $20 million would be collected over the next fifty years, totaling around $1 billion. Less that a tenth of all developments would be affected.

    Such a plan has been in the works for about a decade, and was prompted by a highway widening that jeopardized habitat for the endangered bay checkerspot butterfly. Similar systems have been created in hundreds of other jurisdictions.

    Among other species that would be protected: the San Joaquin kit fox, the golden eagle, and the western pond turtle.

    Developers and farmers are wary of the up-front costs, but environmental groups point out that the projects would face similar fees even without the plan.

    Meanwhile, similar controversy surrounds a proposed expansion at the Oakland Zoo. The new exhibit would celebrate native California species, but some environmental groups point out that the construction could destroy habitat for other nearby natives.