New Policy Proposed to Benefit At-Risk Wildlife, Provide Credits to Landowners Taking Voluntary Conservation Actions
July 25, 2014
As part of an on-going effort to provide more flexibility under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) proposed a new policy that would give landowners credit for voluntary conservation actions for at-risk species. Under the proposed policy, landowners could obtain credits for current efforts that benefit declining species. These conservation credits could later be redeemed to offset or mitigate actions that are detrimental to a species were it to subsequently be listed under the ESA. The credits may also be traded or sold to a third party.
The proposed policy differs from other tools in the ESA toolbox such as Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) and Safe Harbor agreements. For example, CCAAs are only open to non-federal landowners and not federal agencies, and they provide assurances that if a landowner takes certain actions there will be no further restriction if the species is listed. By contrast, the new policy would be available to any landowning entity, including states, tribes, corporations, private individuals and federal agencies, but with no guarantees exempting them from future restrictions.
This action is part of an ongoing effort by the Service to make the implementation of the ESA more effective and less burdensome. It follows a series of proposals to carry out the commitments set forth in the Department of the Interior's "Plan for Retrospective Regulatory Review," which implements President Obama's 2011 Executive Order on "Improving Regulation and Regulatory Review." The Department and the Service plan to continue their efforts to make even more successful the implementation of the Endangered Species Act, a law that has already helped recover such once-endangered species as the bald eagle, American alligator, and grey whale, and that increased the populations of other still endangered species to their highest level in decades, including the whooping crane, California condor, black-footed ferret, manatee, Florida panther, grizzly bear and wood stork.
By incentivizing early voluntary conservation efforts before they reach the point of endangerment, the proposed policy will help protect at-risk wildlife from habitat loss, competition from non-native species and other threats that are being exacerbated by climate change.
View the proposed policy at: www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/prelisting-conservation.html
– FWS –