Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan

Photo of Bridge and Water

The Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan (CHCP) is a partnership that includes the City of Crossville and Cumberland County, universities, organizations, business owners, landowners, and other private citizens. These partners are working together to conserve the forests and waters of the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee and provide for continued economic growth in the region. Our plan is based on the latest science, and our work is fully funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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CHCP Staff

Staff members for the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan team come from Tennessee Tech, the University of Tennessee, and The Nature Conservancy. Our staff is assisting the Crossville and Cumberland County community with the creation of a 30-year habitat conservation plan, which will balance environmental protection with economic growth on the Plateau.

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CHCP Brochure

The CHCP Brochure describes the importance of protecting our region's diverse plant and animal populations while supporting steady community growth within the Cumberland Plateau. The brochure is also a useful tool to communicate the need for the HCP and the impact to local residents.

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The Cumberland HCP involves the interplay of the latest science with the community's needs for development and growth. If you have questions, you can review our Frequently Asked Questions list. Please feel welcome also to contact our Project and Outreach Manager

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CHCP Staff

For a complete listing of all CHCP staff and their roles on the project, refer to the table below. If you have any questions, please contact Teresa Payne.

Staff Organization

Affiliation Name Title
UTIA Logo Adam Willcox, Ph.D. Project Advisor
David Ostermeier, Ph.D. Advisor
Teresa Payne Outreach Manager
Kyle Rodgers Graduate Research Assistant
TNC Logo Katherine Medlock Cumberland HCP Director
Rob Bullard Rivers Program Director
Paul Kingsbury Technical Writer

Staff Bios

Adam Willcox, Ph.D.

Adam Willcox Adam Willcox is a Research Assistant Professor in the Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee. He investigates the human dimensions of forests, wildlife, fish, and other natural resources issues through social science inquiry. His research on stakeholder attitudes, norms, barriers, and additional perceptions towards natural resources conservation is applied to balance conservation and livelihoods for sustainable natural resources management and development. Adam has worked extensively in the Southeastern US, Africa, and Belize for academic, governmental, and non-governmental organizations to complete endangered species and national park plans and develop and implement outreach and extension programs. More information on background and other research projects can be found on Dr. Willcox's webpage.

Teresa Payne

Teresa PayneTeresa received her degree in Agriculture and Natural Resources from Michigan State University and has since held positions in all aspects of resource management. She began her career in Reno, Nevada with a large engineering firm managing projects in the Lake Tahoe Basin. Serving as Executive Director for a development authority, she directed the redevelopment of a Michigan downtown by creating a grant/rebate program for commercial property owners, infrastructure improvements, and promotion of industrial development utilizing tax increment financing. Teresa has participated in the completion of comprehensive plans, written successful grant proposals, prepared land use ordinances, and created a Green Local Government sustainability program in conjunction with the Green Building Coalition in southwest Florida. She has most recently returned to Crossville and prior to joining the HCP Team, worked for a Crossville engineering firm in the areas of permitting and environmental assessment. An avid outdoor enthusiast, Teresa enjoys hiking, canoeing, and the equestrian sport of dressage.

Kyle Rodgers

Kyle Rodgers Kyle will be conducting research on endangered species planning and policy, with specific work related to the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan. Prior to coming to University of Tennessee, Kyle spent several years in California working with a local NGO on community-based natural resource management projects. Kyle's background also includes working with the US National Park Service on the Blue Ridge Parkway and field research experience in the Northern Rockies, the Sierra Nevada mountains, and New Zealand. Kyle holds a B.S. in Environmental and Natural Resources from Clemson University.

Katherine Medlock

Katherine Medlock Katherine was born in Knoxville, TN and received her undergraduate degree in biology from Maryville College. Her passion for the Cumberland region began during that time when she and her future husband hiked, camped, and rock climbed in the region. Katherine received her Master's degree in biology from Eastern Kentucky University where she focused her studies on aquatic systems. There she conducted her thesis research on a small stream within the Daniel Boone National Forest on the Cumberland Plateau. Katherine worked as an adjunct professor at Maryville College, as a group facilitator, and as a Field Biologist for the Tennessee Valley Authority before beginning her work in the non-profit sector. After three years with a small non-profit in Georgia, Katherine was pleased to return to the Cumberland region and work as the Executive Director of the Alliance for the Cumberlands. Katherine has been with The Nature Conservancy for three years and continues to work in the Cumberlands and all over the State of Tennessee.

Rob Bullard

Rob Bullard Rob Bullard grew up in Franklin, TN and earned a B.A. in Environmental Studies from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville and J.D. from the University of Denver. He began working for The Nature Conservancy in 2007, managing preserve stewardship and land protection projects across Tennessee. He spent several years working for The Nature Conservancy's legal department and Colorado River program before returning to his native watershed as the Tennessee and Cumberland Rivers Program Director. Rob spends his free time canoeing, fly fishing, and gardening with his family. He will be focusing on mitigation strategies for the CHCP.

Paul Kingsbury

Paul Kingsbury Paul Kingsbury is the Technical Writer for the Cumberland HCP. He also served as the Technical Writer for the Northern Cumberlands Forest Resources HCP (NCFRHCP), which was submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2011. When not working on the HCP, he serves as Communications Manager for The Nature Conservancy, where he handles all Tennessee marketing communications, media relations and web pages. Previously, he was a writer and editor for Vanderbilt University and the Country Music Hall of Fame, and then a full-time freelancer. He has written and edited several books about country music and popular culture. He enjoys playing guitar, hiking, camping, and paddling. He earned his B.A. in English from Vanderbilt University.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is an HCP?

Photo of Kids Playing in Creek A Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) integrates economic development and natural resource use with the long-term preservation of rare species. The Endangered Species Act prohibits the harm (also called "take") of threatened and endangered (T&E) species or their habitat. The Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan (CHCP) is being developed for the City of Crossville and Cumberland County to provide a voluntary option for compliance with the Endangered Species Act for local developers and City/County projects.

Once the CHCP is approved, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) will issue an "Incidental Take Permit"(ITP). The City of Crossville and Cumberland County will hold this permit, which acts as an umbrella permit to cover all participating development activities. Habitat Conservation Planning was approved by Congress to foster proactive strategies to address both the use and conservation of resources associated with T&E species on non-federal lands. For more information, see the US Fish and Wildlife Service website.

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Why an HCP for the Cumberland Plateau?

The Cumberland Mountains and Plateau Region in Tennessee are home to rich cultural and natural resources and support numerous resource uses including forestry, agriculture, coal mining, oil and gas production, and water supply. The area is being increasingly recognized for its scenic beauty, tourism potential, and rich and unique conservation values. Currently over 23 rare and endangered species also depend on this area for survival. Demands on regional natural resources will continue to grow, as the population increases. Through progressive development practices associated with an HCP, the long-term viability of these species will be maintained in balance with continued economic growth. This presents a unique opportunity to work together to achieve our goals and preserve the natural beauty of the Plateau for future generations to come.

How will the CHCP benefit the local economy?

Golfers at Fairfield Glade The Cumberland Plateau is renowned for its natural scenic beauty. This area's rich cultural and natural resources are primarily why people choose to live here. Proactive conservation strategies, such as the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan (CHCP), help increase property values and attract new residential and commercial, and industrial development by protecting the natural resources in the area. Cities and counties use their unique geography to attract economic growth. Fortunately for the City of Crossville and Cumberland County, the geography here is unlike any other place in the world. The Cumberland Plateau contains one of the largest tracts of temperate hardwood forest in the world. Exploring the area a bit more you will find some of the most pristine water resources in the country such as the Obed River, the Upper Emory River, Clear Creek, and Daddys Creek. These geographic ingredients are the reason we are home to one of the most diverse plant and animal populations in the country. As more and more people and businesses take notice of this area, the more they will want to locate here. In addition to long-time Plateau residents, visitors and retirees travel to Cumberland County from across the nation to enjoy the recreational, scenic, and economic bounty of the area.

New ConstructionThe Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan provides an opportunity to merge continued economic development with the conservation legacy of this area. The plan seeks a balance between development and species conservation, while respecting private property rights. Developers, city and county leadership, and various organizations have worked together for the past several years to make sure the plan will be crafted locally. The plan is specifically tailored to meet the needs of the people of Cumberland County--through the protection of our natural resources, water quality, and covered species. Not only does the CHCP serve as a plan for habitat conservation, it also serves to facilitate development activities by providing a voluntary mechanism by which these activities can remain in compliance with the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Ultimately, the CHCP is a deal between the applicants (Crossville and Cumberland County) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which establishes clear agreements on any activity that may affect threatened or endangered species. After agreed upon, the USFWS assures the City, County, and participating developers that "a deal is a deal" and that they will not face additional requirements other than those included up front through the CHCP.

Some of the tangible benefits of this HCP to private interests and landowners are:

  1. The HCP process ensures that participating landowners and/or other private interests are able to proceed with agreed upon development activities as long as conservation measures mitigate and minimize impacts on endangered species, and/or their habitats.

  2. The applicants (The City of Crossville and Cumberland County) are provided regulatory assurances that if "unforeseen circumstances" arise, there will be no requirement to commit additional land, water, or financial compensation beyond the original CHCP agreement. Such long-term planning assurances can be vital to financial and development interests that have or may be investing significant financial resources in a project. This can be of great cost benefit to a landowner and/or developer, as they are then able to determine all costs upfront before beginning the project.

  3. Participating private landowners and other private interests have more control over finding positive solutions to endangered species protection issues, and environmental permitting can be streamlined.

Farmer's Market Photo

While conserving the habitat of federally-listed species is the ultimate goal of the CHCP, we must realize how important it will be for economic development. The plan assures participating developers and the local government that conserving habitat does not mean stopping economic growth. In fact, protecting the habitat and supporting conservation will promote growth by valuing what brings people to this area in the first place. This plan is a way to maintain our natural heritage and build upon what we already have. This concept is so important to us and the community that the CHCP logo says, "Conserving Habitat -- Sustaining Growth."

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Who is involved in the CHCP effort?

The Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency received a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to facilitate development of an HCP for the City of Crossville and Cumberland County. The Nature Conservancy and faculty and staff from the University of Tennessee and Tennessee Technological University form the primary team coordinating this effort while partnering with numerous groups. Over 100 scientists have been involved to provide guidance on scientific issues. See the CHCP Staff page for more detail. Because successful conservation on the Plateau will require meaningful and lasting partnerships, this project is focused on building relationships with stakeholders in the region. These include: private landowners, landowner associations, forestry and wildlife managers, developers, homebuilders, city and county government officials, watershed associations, other local community groups, and federal and state agencies. Ongoing collaboration with these stakeholders will ensure a practical and feasible means to focus conservation efforts, while also protecting and enhancing the region's commerce and quality of life.

Partners of the CHCP

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What species are covered?

Seventeen rare and endangered animals are listed as "covered species" on the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan (CHCP). No plants are listed as "covered species," because private landowners do not need authorization to take plants unless they are using federal funds or require a federal permit for their project. Some plants have been included in a different category named "Additional Species to Benefit" because, although they will not be listed as "covered species," they will still benefit from the CHCP's Conservation Measures and Mitigation Program through protection and enhancement of their habitat. For more information on the covered species and additional species to benefit, please refer to a variety of resources on this site listed below:

  1. Covered Species Photo Gallery
  2. Additional Species to Benefit
  3. Species Fact Sheets
  4. Species Spotlights in Newsletters

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Are endangered plants treated differently than animals under the ESA?

Photo of Cumberland Rosemary Threatened and endangered animals are protected from take by the Endangered Species Act (ESA), regardless of their location or the type of funding used for a project. However, the ESA protects threatened and endangered plants only on Federal lands and on private lands where a Federal nexus (such as Federal funding or Federal permitting) exists. When a Federal nexus exists, a Section 7 consultation with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to determine whether or not the activities will jeopardize the continued existence or habitat of threatened and endangered plants and animals.

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What does "No Surprises" coverage mean?

When a Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) is approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) is issued, the USFWS guarantees the applicants that no additional compensation or natural resources will be required should any unforeseen circumstances arise throughout the term of the permit. This guarantee is known as 'No Surprises' coverage. The No Surprises regulation confirms that as long as the conditions of the ITP are met, 'a deal is a deal' and protects the ITP applicants from having to anticipate unexpected changes in habitat quality or species impacts.

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How is the CHCP Funded?

Photo of Cumberland County Courthouse Funding for the Cumberland HCP project comes from the federal government through the Department of the Interior, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Endangered Species Program, Cooperative Endangered Species Conservation Fund (Section 6 of the Endangered Species Act) Grant Programs. For information about federal grant programs for endangered and threatened species, click here.

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What is the Forest Resources HCP?

Photo of Cumberland County Forest The Forest Resources HCP (FRHCP) is a sister project to the Cumberland HCP. Through the FRHCP, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) is working to ensure that their forest management activities provide for the conservation and management of threatened, endangered, and rare species. Specifically, TWRA is applying for an Incidental Take Permit (ITP) to cover timber harvesting, road construction and maintenance, and prescribed burning in the following Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs): Catoosa, Luper Mountain, Mt. Roosevelt, and the Sundquist and Royal Blue units of the North Cumberlands. For access to FRHCP website information, click here.

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How do I get involved?

Currently we focusing our efforts on meeting with community stakeholders to prepare the components of the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan. As the Plan approaches completion, volunteer opportunities will increase as we strive to bring the CHCP message to the citizens of Crossville and Cumberland County. At this point, volunteer opportunities are focused on community events such as the Mayor's annual Sustainability Fair and a number of other events. For volunteer opportunities with the CHCP, please contact the CHCP Project and Outreach Manager, Teresa Payne.

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Covered Species

There are 16 rare, threatened, and endangered animal species listed as "covered species" in the Cumberland HCP. Explore the photo gallery below to learn more about the covered species:

Additional Species to Benefit

The Endangered Species Act protects threatened and endangered plants only on Federal lands and on private lands where a Federal nexus (Federal funding) exists. The species included in this category will benefit from the CHCP's Conservation Measures and Mitigation Program through protection and enhancement of their habitat.

  • Fair Photo 1
    Cumberland Rosemary (Conradina verticillata)

    Description: perennial evergreen shrub, needle-like leaves, pink/lavender flowers from May to June
    Habitat: boulder-sand bars in floodplains or riparian areas with seasonal flooding
    Federal Status: Threatened
    NatureServe Data

  • Tennessee Pondweed
    Tennessee Pondweed (Potamogeton tennesseenis)

    Description: perennial herb with submerged grass-like leaves and floating leaves; flowers May to October
    Habitat: shallows of streams and ponds within the Appalachian Mountains
    Federal Status: Center for Biological Diversity Petition
    NatureServe Data

  • Virginia Spiraea
    Virginia Spiraea (Spiraea virginiana)

    Description: clonal shrub found in dense clumps with upright, branching stems (1.2 m) and large clusters of white flowers (5-22cm)
    Habitat: edges of streams with exposed rock, detritus, and bars of substrate from gravel to boulders
    Federal Status: Threatened
    NatureServe Data

  • Cumberland Sandgrass
    Cumberland Sandgrass (Calamovilfa arcuata)

    Description: perennial riverine sandgrass, forms clumps >1.5 m tall, white hairs on sheaths
    Habitat: "scour prairies" or gravel/cobble bars along rivers subject to scouring floods
    Federal Status: Center for Biological Diversity Petition
    NatureServe Data

  • White Fringless Orchid

    White Fringless Orchid (Spiraea virginiana)

    Description: perennial orchid with white flower, fragrant and blooms from July to September
    Habitat: wet, flat, boggy areas along seepage slopes or stream headwaters, prefer acidic mud or sand in partially shaded areas
    Federal Status: Candidate
    NatureServe Data

  • Large-flowered Barbara's Buttons
    Large-flowered Barbara's Buttons (Marshallia grandiflora)

    Description: perennial herb with a single stem and purple flower, leaves decrease in size upward
    Habitat: in alluvium or crevices of streams which are flood-scoured, large, and with high gradients in the Appalachians, prefers wet, sandy soil in partial to full sun
    Federal Status: Center for Biological Diversity Petition
    NatureServe Data
    Photo Credit: Alfred R. Schotz (NatureServe)

Other Media

Cerulean Warbler Video (University of Tennessee 2010)

Cerulean Warblers are neo-tropical song birds endemic to the Cumberland Mountains. For more information about the identification and importance of this species, please view this University of Tennessee video which features an interview with Doctoral Candidate, Than Boves.

Hellbender Video (Lee University)

Download Video
Thumbnail image of Hellbender Video

Hellbenders are a rare find in Tennessee waterways these days. Take a look at this video produced by Lee University for a glimpse of this elusive creature.

Covered Activities

Photo of Newly Built HomeSimilar to the selection of covered species, the HCP Core Team has identified "covered activities" to be included in the Cumberland HCP. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service defines covered activities as actions that: (1) are likely to result in incidental take; (2) are reasonably certain to occur over the life of the permit; and (3) for which the applicant or landowner has ownership and/or jurisdiction.

The covered activities for the Cumberland HCP are outlined below:

Residential, Commercial, Industrial, Public Facilities, Recreational, and Institutional Development

  • Any development or redevelopment activity that results in land disturbance
  • Crossville Wastewater Treatment Plant

Waterbody Crossings (Streams, Wetlands, and Lakes), Road Rights-of-Way (ROW), and Utility Line Easements

Roads, Bridges, and Culverts
  • New construction
  • Replacement, repair, and retrofit
  • New ROW: construction and maintenance including herbicide use
Water and Sewer Underground Utility Lines
  • Stream crossing
  • Underground line maintenance
  • New ROW: construction and maintenance including herbicide use
  • Access Roads

Biological Goals and Objectives (BGOs)

After researching the scientific literature, interviewing species experts, and consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, a list of Biological Goals and Objectives (BGOs) are created to set goals for the Habitat Conservation Plan (HCP) and ultimately the covered species. Information regarding the covered species, their habitats, and their resource requirements guides the creation of the BGOs. The covered species must have the habitat they need to successfully reproduce and survive. The BGOs are then used as the "measuring stick" against which the success and compliance of the HCP are measured over time.

Key Limiting Factors

Key Limiting Factors (KLFs) can be seen as a special set of habitat requirements that if altered or removed would be detrimental to the survival of the species. Typically these include reproductive habitats (e.g., require certain tree species or rock sizes in stream beds), food sources (for adults and young), and environmental conditions (e.g., appropriate water temperatures and stream flows). Conceptually KLFs are used to set thresholds for monitoring and adaptive management plans.

Conservation Measures

During development activities, Conservation Measures (CMs) are specific actions taken by landowners, developers, and/or the local government to reduce or avoid negative impacts to the covered species. The Outreach Team and the Stakeholder Committee developed and approved a draft list of CMs for the Cumberland Habitat Conservation Plan (CHCP). The CMs will be applied across all voluntary CHCP development projects within the Permit Area. These CMs are required as a condition of CHCP participation and will reduce the impact of development activities on the covered species.

Monitoring Plan

Another major component of the CHCP is the Monitoring Plan. The Monitoring Plan is designed to track the progress and effectiveness of the HCP both at a programmatic and a species habitat level. The Monitoring Plan encompasses a variety of habitat measurements such as water quality assessments, benthic (stream bottom) monitoring, species surveys (to gauge species populations and general health), etc. Additionally, the Plan will report on CHCP permitting activities, inspections, and violation enforcement.

Adaptive Management

One of the most versatile components of any HCP is Adaptive Management. Adaptive Management is a common-sense approach to managing covered species' habitat which encourages changing the way you operate based on the lessons you have learned along the way. The Monitoring Plan and Adaptive Management approach dove-tail together in such a way that if we find via monitoring that a certain action condoned by the HCP negatively impacts any of the covered species' habitat, then we can make alterations to minimize or avoid these impacts in the future. This does not mean that the HCP changes. Actually one of the most reassuring attributes of an HCP is its "no surprises" coverage, which allows applicants to set their commitment to covered species up front, assuring no additional mitigation requirements if the status of any of the species should change. However, because of the long-term nature of HCPs, Adaptive Management simply allows us to make changes as we go based on practical experience, but not to exceed our BGOs or other commitments made in the HCP.

Changed and Unforeseen Circumstances

Changed circumstances are those circumstances that may affect a species or geographic area covered by the HCP. These are circumstances that can be reasonably anticipated by the applicant or U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and to which the parties can plan a response. The No Surprises Regulation requires that potential changed circumstances be identified in the HCP along with measures that would be taken by the applicant to respond to those changes. In the event that a changed circumstance occurs within the Permit Area, the USFWS and applicant may determine that additional conservation or mitigation measures are necessary.

Unforeseen circumstances are changes in circumstances affecting a species or geographic area covered by the HCP that could not have been reasonably anticipated at the time the plan was written. As described in the No Surprises Regulation, it is USFWS's responsibility to identify the existence of unforeseen circumstances. In the event that an unforeseen circumstance occurs within the Permit Area, the USFWS may suggest additional conservation or mitigation measures, but the applicant cannot be required to implement these additional measures.

Cumulative Impacts

Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act, as well as NEPA (the National Environmental Policy Act of 1970), require consideration of Cumulative Impacts. Cumulative Impacts can be defined as impacts to the species and/or degradation of habitat which may occur over the term of the CHCP Permit. Within the HCP, impacts have been evaluated based on sources of stress currently occurring in the project area as well as other activities outside of the project area that impact the covered species. Cumulative Impacts--that is, impacts that build in their negative effects over time--are not assessed within the HCP, but they may be addressed in Adaptive Management and Changed Circumstances sections of the HCP.

Take Estimate

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) requires that all Habitat Conservation Plans estimate the amount of "take" that will occur for each species over the life of the HCP. Take is defined any action taken to harm any threatened or endangered species and/or their habitat. Once the CHCP is approved by the USFWS, the City of Crossville and Cumberland County will receive an Incidental Take Permit (ITP). The ITP permits the City and County governments to work with residents, developers, and other entities to facilitate development projects within the City and County in ways that protect covered species. Within the CHCP, estimated take for each covered species has been quantified using a sophisticated computer model that predicts the future growth of the community and the amount of habitat for each species that will be adversely impacted by that growth.