Endangered Species law needs aid itself

dwheeler at teleport.com dwheeler at teleport.com
Thu Dec 31 23:52:40 EST 1998

The following article appeared in The Oregonian, Dec. 28, 1998 pA6

Endangered Species law needs aid itself

By DAVE HOGAN, of The Oregonian staff

	WASHINGTON -- Environmental groups, industry representatives and many
of the members of Congress are all in agreement: The Endangered Species Act
needs to be revised and updated. They just can’t agree on what changes are
needed.    That division will be important next year, when Congress is
expected to make another try at rewriting the law.  The timber inudstry, home
builders and property rights advocates want private landowners to be
compensated if the use of their land is restricted for wildlife protection.
This would include owners of small parcels of land.  “If you’re told you
can’t farm or ranch or cut trees on an area of your property because of
endangered species, I think there ought to be a fund to pay somebody for
that,” said W. Henson Moore, president of the American Forest & Paper
Association. “And that’s called compensation.”	     Environmental groups
oppose such compensation and have been able to block it in Congress. In
legislation introduced last year after negotiations between Senate
Republicans and Democrats as well as the White House, Sen. Dirk Kempthorne,
R-Idaho, left out compensation and placed it in a companion bill. Neither
bill made it to a Senate floor vote.	  But environmentalists support
another idea in that companion bill: Providing incentives to private
landowners to take ations that would benefit endangered species. For example,
landowners could take tax deductions for actions such as allowing flooding on
their property to create wetlands for ducks, said Kim Delfino, staff attorney
for U.S. Public Interest Research Group in Washington.	   Conservation
groups oppose other proposals for urging private landowners to be more active
in endangered species matters, including the use of habitat conservation
plans, or HCPs.     HCPs, which were added to the law in 1982, are long-term
agreements in which a non-federal landowner pledges to take action to benefit
species. In return, the property owner receives permission from the federal
government to proceed with an activity such as logging or clearing that
otherwise would result in illegally harming endangered or threatened species
or their habitat.	The Clinton administration has dramatically increased
the use of HCPs. Now, industry groups would liike to have the law revised to
codify the administration’s “no surprises” rule, which guarantees landowners
they will not be required to take measures to help a particular species
beyond what is agreed to in an HCP.	Environmental groups, on the other
hand, would like to see federal funds dedicated for overseeing HCPs and for
responding if it turns out that more protection is needed in areas where
landowners have been exempted by the no- surprises policy or where the
landowner fails to follow through on a commitment.	 But the change that
environmentalists seem to want most in the law is an increased emphasis on
the recovery of species. Although the law requires a recovery plan for each
listed species, nothing requires an agency such as the U.S. Forest Service to
implement the plan. That requirement should be added, Delfino said.   
Industry groups have been pushing in another direction. They would like to
see changes that would speed up the way federal agencies assess the impact of
a proposed action on listed species. Currently, the endangered species law
specifies that the U.S. Fish and FWildlife Service and the National Marine
Fisheries Service are the two agencies that assess that impact. The timber
industry and others are seeking a provision known as “self-consultation,”
which would allow other agencies, such as the Forest Service, to do at least
initial parts of the assessments in their areas.       One last issue on
which all sides in the endangered species debate agree is that Congress is
too divided to pass any rewrite of the law in the next two years. The
presidentail election in November 2000 only makes it more unlikely.  “Nobody
wants to tackle an issue that could paint their party as being anti-
environment or anti-endangered-species or anti-trees,” said Moore of the
American Forest & Paper Association.

The above article was posted as a courtesy by
Daniel B. Wheeler

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