Jul 182014

Just a quick note on a proposed policy released yesterday by the Fish and Wildlife Service...

The proposal would give landowners credits "for current efforts that benefit declining species," the service said. "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 Act. The credits may also be traded or sold to a third party."

Here's a key paragraph from the news release:

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 restrictions 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.

The Center for Biological Diversity attacked the policy immediately. (Actually, it took a day.) CBD said the proposal "fails to explain how officials will identify and measure the effectiveness of the conservation efforts."

Many habitat conservation plans under Section 10 of the Endangered Species Act already reward private and state governments for preserving habitat that would likely never be developed, which then allows development to occur elsewhere. Habitat is protected, but a net loss to the species occurs.

“As it’s worded right now, the proposal will create countless loopholes giving ‘credit’ for activities that aren’t really improving a species in exchange for a ‘debit’ that will cause serious harm,” said CBD endangered species policy director Brett Hartl.