December 11, 2008

Is there a better way for endangered species than the Endangered Species Act?

By Is there a better way for endangered species than the Endangered Species Act?

The AP reports in today's Salt Lake Tribune that "[d]ocumentation of an 'impressive' number of steps being taken to save the sage grouse from extinction may be enough to keep the bird off the U.S. list of protected species despite significant loss of its habitat to wildfires across much of the West in recent years, a top Interior Department official said."

Earlier this week Assistant Interior Secretary Stephen Allred made it clear that the listing of the sage grouse under the Endangered Species Act would not be a clear benefit for the species:

"You lose so much flexibility when you list that the ability to do what I'm going to call sort of 'out of the box' things to improve (habitat) is severely restricted," he said. "So I am hopeful that what we are seeing is that we are dealing with the issue and that will make a difference and it won't be listed."

This news comes on the heels of Fish and Wildlife Service's and Bureau of Land Management's  agreements earlier this week with private interests that will help to protect the lesser prairie chicken and the sand dune lizard.  As the AP reported in yesterday's Jackson Hole Star-Tribune:

Under the conservation agreements, Lea County rancher Chris Brininstool and Marbob Energy Corp. of Artesia will take certain actions to protect the species and their habitat, including modifying fences to reduce collision by prairie chickens and relocating well sites to limit habitat disturbance.

In return, Brininstool and Marbob have assurances they will be able to continue using the land regardless whether the species ever comes under ESA protection.

Federal officials said they are in the process of getting more landowners and businesses to participate.

Sounds like a win-win.  Of course, however, some environmentalists are unhappy:

But some conservation groups say the federal government is being irresponsible by trying to avoid listing the prairie chicken and lizard under the Endangered Species Act.

"We believe it makes absolutely no sense for the Fish and Wildlife Service to be talking about avoiding listing either of these species," said Nicole Rosmarino of WildEarth Guardians.

In other words, it makes no sense to enter into discussions with private property owners before imposing ESA regulations that would drastically affect their ability to make a living.

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