Etowah Habitat Conservation Plan

Information on plan to protect the Etowah River's federally protected fish species

Etowah DarterThe Etowah  Aquatic Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) was drafted between 2002 and 2007 by the counties and municipalities of the Etowah basin (Lumpkin, Dawson, Forsyth, Pickens, Gilmer, Cherokee, Bartow, Cobb and Paulding counties) as a means to protect three federally protected fish species without compromising the potential of the region to grow and develop. 

The species include the amber darter, Etowah darter and Cherokee darter, which are listed as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act.  Counties and municipalities that choose to participate in the Etowah HCP will adopt a set of six policies for managing urban-related threats such as stormwater runoff, erosion and sedimentation, and loss of stream buffers.

These policies will help protect these fish and our drinking water.

ACT NOW! Contact Your City & County Commissioners

Although the public comment period has ended and the HCP is now with U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) for review, you can still do your part to insure that this plan is implemented by local governments. When, and if, the USFWS approves the HCP, it will then be up to local governments to adopt the ordinances outlined in the plan. Participation by local governments is entirely voluntary.

Paulding, Bartow, Cherokee and Pickens counties have all applied for participation in the plan as have the cities of Dawsonville, Holly Springs, Canton, Roswell, Waleska, Woodstock, Ball Ground and Dallas. While Holly Springs and Woodstock have backed off of their commitment to the HCP, all these local jurisdictions may still participate in the plan once USFWS approves it.

Unfortunately, opponents of the HCP have been feeding misinformation and unsubstantiated claims to local governments in an effort to derail the process.

If you live in one of these local jurisdictions, contact your elected officials and ask them to support the HCP.

Here's a few points to make:

  • These fish are among the most studied fish in the state. In the past six years, 13 scientific research projects about these species have been published in scientific journals--all point to the fact that this fish are in peril and that the HCP would help preserve the species. 
  • In 2008, a panel of 16 national and international fisheries scientists concluded that these species are in imminent peril of becoming extinct.
  • Policies outlined in the plan do not prohibit development in the Etowah River Basin. In fact, the HCP streamlines the environmental permitting process for developers and provides a uniform set of rules for them to follow.
  • The HCP levies no new taxes or fees on local residents. Instead, an $85 per developed acre is charged to developers that will be used by local governments to insure enforcement of HCP policies.
  • Local governments participating in the HCP will be eligible for federal grants  to purchase greenspace in local communities.

To learn more about the HCP, visit

To read CRBI Executive Director, Joe Cook's blog on the HCP, visit

To read additional background information about the HCP, click here.


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