As if the Endangered Species Act doesn’t have enough problems right now. Federal records recently uncovered by reporters at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer show that the government may triple the amount of land where endangered plants and animals are protected not by the strictures of the Act, but instead by controversial Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs).

In the abstract, HCPs sound like a good thing—they allow landowners to work out the details of a conservation program in exchange for a hands-off approach from federal regulators. But in practice, HCPs have proven to be a disastrously ineffective way to protect endangered species. In fact, recent investigative reporting at the P-I found that HCPs are often only loosely based on good science, the success of the plans are neither monitored nor tracked, the HCP program is badly under-funded, and the plans are virtually never enforced. In reality, HCPs can amount to carte blanche for landowners to harm species that are at serious risk of extinction.

So even while the Endangered Species Act is in danger of being emasculated by Congress, its current implementation is becoming ever-less effective. Depressing. Read all about it here.