U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Seeking Ideas to Strengthen Incentives for Wildlife Conservation

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced the extension of a public process exploring the expansion of incentives for voluntary partnerships with private landowners and other land stewards to help conserve imperiled wildlife. This effort is part of the Service’s commitment to use innovative approaches to restore and protect the habitats for wildlife and improve implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The Service is committed to working with landowners to reverse species declines when possible — by taking early and effective actions to address threats that stabilize species and improve the health of at-risk wildlife — before they need the protection of the ESA. To view a copy of the notice, visit http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/landowner_incentives.html.

This action seeks to improve existing conservation tools like Habitat Conservation Plans, Safe Harbor Agreements, and Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and make them more effective. The Service is also seeking comments on how to improve incentives, such as pre-approved conservation credits, for landowners and others to take voluntary conservation actions beneficial to species that are candidates for addition to the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants, and for other at-risk species.

Potential ideas for improving incentives to landowners include establishing conservation “banks” for candidate and other at-risk species. Already in use in many parts of the country for listed species, conservation banks sell credits that allow landowners to offset the impact of their activities on those species, as well as to buy credits that reward landowners for making habitat improvements. By focusing its resources strategically, the bank can conserve habitat on a landscape scale and provide greater benefits to a species rather than having small, isolated patches of habitat on many different properties. Also under consideration is the development of a new type of agreement that would 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.