Fed seeks to inspire community-driven conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently announced that it is seeking public input on a proposal to expand incentives for farmers, ranchers and other private landowners to help conserve wildlife. The proposal is part of the agency’s effort to seek innovative ways to improve implementation of the Endangered Species Act.

The FWS request for public comment includes solicitation of ideas on how to make existing conservation collaboration tools more effective, such as Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, and Candidate Conservation Agreements. The agency’s effort is intended to lead towards consensus approaches and towards encouraging conservation practices by landowners that help preserve species that are candidates for federal protection.

One potential proposal before FWS includes the establishment of conservation “banks” for at-risk species. The conservation banks would sell credits that allow landowners to offset the impact of their activities on at-risk species as well as buy credits that reward landowners for making habitat improvements. Also under consideration is the development of a new agreement to provide landowners with assurances that conservation actions taken to benefit species prior to listing could be used to offset the adverse effects of activities carried out later, in the event the species is listed.

FWS is also working on a similar effort with the Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resource Conservation Service entitled the Working Lands for Wildlife initiative. The collaboration offers financial and technical assistance to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners to restore and protect the habitats for seven at-risk species across the nation, including the  greater sage-grouseNew England cottontailbog turtlegolden-winged warblergopher tortoiselesser prairie-chicken and the Southwestern willow flycatcher. Interested producers can enroll in the Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program on a continuous basis at their local NRCS field office.

Public comments on the Endangered Species Act reform proposal are due May 14, 2012 and can be submitted using the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. [FWS–R9–ES–2011–0099]; or
  • U.S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS–R9–ES–2011–0099]; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042–PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Photo Credit: FWS

Author: Terence Houston

Science Policy Analyst for ESA.

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