What is an HCP Authorization of Coverage, also known as the "Beach Mouse Permit", and why do I need one?
The Perdido Key Beach Mouse (“Beach Mouse”) is a critically endangered mouse, found only on Perdido Key and protected by the Endangered Species Act. Because of this, anyone wishing to build or develop on Perdido Key had to previously apply to the US. Fish and Wildlife Service for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). The process is long (up to two years) and provided significant barriers to those wishing to build single-family or small-scale developments.
In an effort to provide protection for wildlife and allow timely, sustainable development of the Key, Escambia County applied for a USFWS Incidental Take Permit (ITP). This ITP authorizes the County to issue permits for activities that might result in unintentional impacts or “take” of federally listed species. In order to receive the ITP, the Perdido Key Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) was developed.
If a project meets the criteria of the HCP, Escambia County may issue an "Authorization of Coverage" under the County's ITP permit, also know as a Beach Mouse Permit, to individual owners and/or developers.
The programs and policies contained in the plan ensure any activities carried out are done so in a way that protects beach mice, sea turtles, shorebirds and the habitats they rely on.
How do I know if I need a Permit?
All parcels containing critical or suitable beach mouse habitat as determined by USFWS are required to hold a Beach Mouse Permit. The Escambia County Property Appraiser’s website can provide a brief over-view of parcel information, including zoning and presence of critical habitat.
Property owners should confirm their zoning and critical habitat acreage with the county before moving forward with a permit.
What is required as part of my permit?
Before Authorization of Coverage (Beach Mouse Permit) can be granted, the following are required:
- Habitat Management Plan detailing property information, impact minimization, and environmental mitigation measures as required by the Habitat Conservation Plan.
- Beach Mouse Land Disturbance Permit & Fees
- Full site plans, that include include all proposed impacts, lighting fixtures and locations, general landscaping and other environmental mitigation/design features
Once all the above have been submitted and approved, an Authorization of Coverage is issued, which allows the property owner to proceed with development. Additional requirements include:
- Two nights of pre-land disturbance PKBM trapping by qualified technician
- Deed Restrictions signed and recorded with OR book before Building Permit Issuance
- Conservation Easements recorded into OR book before Certification of Occupancy
How does the permitting process work?
The HCP outlines the total acres of “take” (impact) that can occur within the 30-year lifespan of the HCP. These acreages are broken into five-year increments, which are further divided by zoning category. Once the allowed impact acreage is allocated for each zoning category, no more permits may be issued until the next five-year cycle begins.
Escambia County issues permits on a first-come, first-serve basis. Permits cannot be issued until all plans have been approved and the impact fees have been paid in full.
Is there another avenue for developing on Perdido Key?
Property owners can choose to apply to the USFWS regional office directly for an Incidental Take Permit. For more information on the process, go here.
How long does it take to get a permit?
As many of the conservation measures involve project siting and design, it is strongly recommended the permitting process run concurrently with project development. Escambia County will not issue a permit until final site plans, including lighting, landscaping and other mitigation measures, have been reviewed and approved. Because of this, the beach mouse permit is typically issued when a project is nearing final developmental approval and pre-construction. The Beach Mouse permit is separate from the County Building Permit, and the Beach Mouse permit must be issued first.
Once a complete application has been submitted and approved, property owners can expect a permit within two business weeks.
Can I, the property owner, apply for a permit on my own?
Yes, however many property owners choose to work with an environmental consultant to assist in the development of a Habitat Management Plan and permit requirements. If you have questions about what this entails, please contact our office. A qualified consultant is highly encouraged to ensure coordination across all parties involved in building a home.