Contact: Valerie Fellows 202/208 3008
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is seeking public comment on an innovative new program designed to help federal agencies conserve imperiled species on non-federal lands. The recovery crediting system gives federal agencies flexibility to offset the impact of their actions on threatened and endangered species found on federal lands by undertaking conservation actions on non-federal lands, as long as the affected species receive a net conservation benefit.
President Bush announced the new recovery crediting system during his October 20 visit to Patuxent Research Refuge to discuss the steps the Administration is taking to preserve habitat for migratory birds and imperiled species. The recovery crediting system is another cooperative conservation tool that provides incentives for private landowners to conserve endangered species and foster environmental stewardship of the nation's natural resources.
"Conservation success resides in nurturing a Nation of citizen stewards," said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett. "The recovery crediting system creates incentives for federal agencies to join with local communities to conserve federally protected species—and give them a helping hand on the road to recovery."
Under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), federal agencies are required to use their existing authorities to conserve threatened and endangered species and, in consultation with the Service, ensure that their actions do not jeopardize listed species or destroy or adversely modify critical habitat. Section 7 applies to management of federal lands as well as other federal actions that may affect listed species, such as federal approval of private activities through the issuance of permits and licenses, or through other actions.
Federal agencies will be able to use a recovery crediting system to create a "bank" of credits accrued through beneficial conservation actions undertaken on non-federal lands. A federal agency can develop and store these conservation credits for use at a later time to offset the impacts of its actions on federal lands. Credits must be used to benefit the same species for which they were accrued. The Service will review each recovery crediting system to ensure the net conservation benefits outweigh any potential impacts that could occur during project implementation. Each proposal will be evaluated on its own merit, and some activities related to particular listed species may not be appropriate for the new credit system.
The program is modeled on a successful pilot program developed at Fort Hood in Texas involving the Service, the Department of Defense, the Texas State Department of Agriculture and other agencies. Using the pilot recovery crediting system, the U.S. Army has been able to fund habitat conservation and restoration projects with willing local landowners on more than seven thousand acres of private land surrounding the military base to benefit the endangered golden-cheeked warbler. Fort Hood provides important training areas for troops deploying to Iraq and is also home to the largest known population of golden-cheeked warblers in its breeding range. The credits accrued through these off-base conservation efforts ensure that the Army can conduct mission-critical training at Fort Hood while continuing to benefit the warbler in its home range. Fort Hood has also been able to build important partnerships through this pilot program that will continue to benefit the golden-cheeked warbler and other imperiled species.
"So many of our nation's imperiled species live on non-federal land," said Fish and Wildlife Service Director H. Dale Hall. “This system will make it easier for other federal agencies to reach out to the American people and work with other landowners to do what we can’t do alone.”
This announcement on the recovery crediting system is draft guidance, and the Service will be soliciting public comments on it for 30 days. A notice of the availability of the draft guidance was published in the Federal Register on November 2, 2007. The draft guidance may also be downloaded from the Service’s web site at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/policy/oct.2007.html. Comments must be submitted by December 3, 2007 via mail to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Attention Recovery Crediting, 420 ARLSQ, Washington, DC 20240. Comments may also be faxed to 703/358-2175 or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 97-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 548 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.
For Questions and Answers go to:http://www.fws.gov/home/feature/2007/EndangeredspeciesRecoveryQsandAsVF1107.pdf