DOI Announces Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking Seeking Improvement of Endangered Species Act Private Landowner Incentive and Partnership Programs
As part of the Obama Administration’s year-old effort to review the regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and improve regulatory efficiency pursuant to the President’s January 18, 2011, Executive Order 13563, the Department of the Interior (DOI) today announced an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) for its landowner incentive programs under the ESA.
DOI's ANPR seeks comments on the development of new landowner incentive programs as well as the strengthening of existing programs. The primary focus is a program aimed at providing private landowners with conservation credits for candidate species, that is, species not yet listed under the ESA. Under this program, private landowners with land that constitutes important habitat for candidate species may enter into an agreement with DOI to conserve that habitat in exchange for conservation credits. The end result is that there is no net loss in habitat, and private landowners are appropriately rewarded for their habitat conservation role.
DOI has requested comments on a number of important questions, including whether the conservation credits could be sold or transferred by private landowners to third parties and whether landowners can use conservation actions as voluntary "prelisting mitigation" to satisfy requirements that may arise under later section 7 consultations. In proposing this program, DOI recognizes the importance of providing incentives to private landowners early in the species' status review process so as to avoid species listing, to provide for species survival and to motivate landowner participation.
In addition, DOI has requested comments identifying other areas of improvement needed in its landowner incentive program, including Habitat Conservation Plans, safe harbor agreements and similar cooperative approaches. Anyone interested in making suggestions on how the ESA works with respect to private land should comment on the ANPR and provide DOI with ideas and proposals geared toward bringing private landowners into the ESA species listing and permitting process, reducing species/use conflicts, and reducing the costs and uncertainties to private landowners associated with the presence of endangered species.
The comment period closes on May 14.
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