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Protection Increased Under ESA (fwd)




OFFICE OF THE SECRETARY
For Immediate Release
June 6, 1997
Contact: DOI -- Lisa Guide or Paul Bledsoe (202) 208-6416
DOC -- Kelly Lees (202) 482-4883

BABBITT AND DALEY SAY PROTECTIONS FOR RARE PLANTS AND ANIMALS
HAVE INCREASED UNDER THE "NEW" ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT
-------------------------------
Private Landowner Involvement is Key to Increased Level of Protections

Protections for America's rare plants and animals are more effective now 
than at any time
in the 24 year history of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA),
Interior Secretary Bruce
Babbitt and Commerce Secretary William M. Daley said today. Secretaries
Babbitt and Daley
unveiled two draft conservation incentive policies while highlighting the
dramatic improvements
in  species protection due to Clinton Administration reforms.

Babbitt said the Administration has been able to address many concerns 
about the ESA
by using the law's built-in flexibility,  allowing private landowners to
conserve species while
preserving certainty about the economic potential of their property.

"For the first time in history, the Endangered Species Act is effectively 
saving  rare plants
and animals on privately owned lands," said Secretary Babbitt. "It is a
difference so profound
that in practice we really have  a "new" Endangered Species Act. We're
saving hundreds of
additional species, we are in partnerships with hundreds of landowners, and
millions of acres of
private property are being managed to protect America's natural heritage.
Endangered species,
and the Endangered Species Act itself, are flourishing under our new
reforms."

"These new policies demonstrate significant progress in wildlife 
conservation as well as
fostering greater appreciation for the flexibility of the Endangered
Species Act," said Secretary
Daley. "Having used these ESA policies as guidelines we already enjoy
dozens of successful
partnerships with the private and public sectors showing that species can
be protected while
allowing sustainable development and important government functions to
continue."

"Four years ago, the act was in grave trouble, with many in Congress and 
the private
sector supporting damaging revisions," Secretary Babbitt said.  "But many
Americans were
outspoken in their support for the ESA. With their support we have
prevented the paving over of
America's natural heritage by taking the Endangered Species Act's built-in
flexibility and using
it for the benefit of conservation. Because the law is now responsive to
the concerns of
landowners, we now have something never before associated with the ESA: the
active
involvement of landowners, business people, environmentalists and others to
develop
partnerships that work."

Administrative reforms of the ESA have vastly increased the number of 
species being
protected and increased the amount of land being managed for conservation
by millions of acres,
Babbitt said.

Since more than half of listed species have 80 percent of their habitat on 
private land,  an
effective conservation program must include significant private lands
involvement. Currently,
212 partnerships called " habitat conservation plans" with private
landowners have been
completed and signed, and over 200 are at various stages of development. By
September 1997,
18.5 million acres of private land will be covered by HCP's, including both
preserve lands and
those that will be actively managed for conservation or developed. These
agreements will protect
over 300 species, including state and federally listed, candidates for
listing and species of special
concern.  Only 14 habitat conservation plans were signed between 1982 and
1993, the year
President Clinton took office. In addition, a "No Surprises" policy that
provides assurances to
landowners who are participating in HCP's was officially proposed as a
regulation by the Interior
and Commerce Departments on May 29, 1997. 

"Secretary Babbitt's commitment to achieving the goals of the Endangered 
Species Act
through Habitat Conservation Plans, backed by his No Surprises policy, has
captured substantial
enthusiasm and trust from many private landowners and resource users. The
beneficiaries are
species which would otherwise be unprotected, even as the sensible
development of resources
progresses and benefits the economy, " said Guy R. Martin, of the Western
Urban Water
Coalition and Bay-Delta Urban Coalition.

Twenty Five "Safe Harbor Agreements" have brought active species 
conservation to
nearly 21,000 acres of privately owned land and benefit more than ten
species. Sixteen other
agreements are in development and are expected to cover an additional
14,000 acres. 

"These new policies offer the promise of not just preserving the status 
quo, but of
improving upon it; unless we accomplish that, the goals of the Endangered
Species Act cannot be
achieved," said Michael Bean, Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) senior
attorney.

Through habitat management more than 200 rare species are benefiting from 
conservation
agreements designed to remove threats to species that are candidates for
ESA protection. These
Candidate Conservation Agreements are intended to preclude the need for
listing.

"Innovative multiple species conservation programs--partnerships with 
private interests
and local government--are giving real hope to the endangered species of
Southern California,"
said Dan Silver, Coordinator for the Endangered Habitats League, located in
Southern California.
"We strongly support these efforts, but also ask for needed improvements,
such as in funding and
scientific input."

While a goal of the new administrative reforms is to prevent the need to 
list declining
species by taking action to protect them before they become critically
endangered,  other species
have reached the point of requiring the full protections of the ESA.
Despite a year-long
congressionally imposed moratorium on the listing of species, 374 species
have been added to
the list during the Clinton Administration, more than during any other
Administration. 

"The Nature Conservancy has been working cooperatively with private 
landowners for
decades to conserve rare species and ecosystems on their land," said John
Sawhill of The Nature
Conservancy.  "As approximately 75% of all threatened and endangered
species rely to some
extent on private land to survive, we are delighted to see an increasing
focus on these activities in
the context of the Endangered Species Act."

Babbitt and Daley announced two policies today, one creating  "Safe 
Harbors," which
will enhance recovery of Federally listed species on non-federal lands, 
and the "Candidate
Conservation Agreements" policy, intended to remove threats to species not
yet listed. 
"Safe Harbors and Candidate Conservation are key pieces of the Clinton
Administration's ESA
reforms," said Secretary Babbitt. "Both provide important new incentives
and assurances to
private property owners to help save and enhance habitat for listed and
candidate species without
having to worry about additional regulatory restrictions under the Act."

"Commerce's goal to balance protection of our natural resources with 
sustainable
development will be complemented through these two policies. The policies
will also enhance
our Nation's efforts to save endangered fish and wildlife by providing
private landowners with a
better understanding of the act's regulatory guidelines, " said Secretary
Daley. "More effective
stewardship or management of private land will keep essential habitat
undivided, maintain and
restore unique habitats and create other unique benefits for endangered
species."

"The Southern California Natural Community Conservation Program has taken
endangered species protection beyond regulatory gridlock and ideological
posturing and built a
bridge between environmental protection and economic imperatives," said
Monica Florian, Sr.
Vice President of the Irvine Company.  "It has made conservation on private
lands feasible and
even desirable from a landowners' point of view.  The NCCP has provided an
innovative and
practical means to conserve multiple habitats on a large scale and to
protect multiple species
before they are in danger."


Babbitt said that under the draft Safe Harbor policy, the Fish and Wildlife
Service and the
National Marine Fisheries Service (the Services), in cooperation with
appropriate state agencies
and affected Tribal governments, may provide property owners with
assurances for enhancing
the recovery of a listed species by voluntarily entering into Safe Harbor
Agreements. The
Services must find that species included in an agreement are expected to
receive a net
conservation benefit from voluntary conservation activities. A current
habitat baseline condition
would be determined and any increase in an animal's population above that
condition resulting
from a property owner's voluntary good stewardship would not increase their
regulatory
responsibility or affect future land use decisions. The Services would
issue the property owner an
"enhancement of survival permit" under Section 10(a) (1) (A) of the act,
which would allow the
property owner to return the affected property at the end of the Safe
Harbor agreement back to
baseline conditions even if it resulted in the incidental take of a listed
species. As long as the
property owner complied with the terms and conditions of the Safe Harbor
agreement and
permit, he or she could make any use of the property that maintained the
agreed-upon baseline
conditions.  

The Candidate Conservation Agreements draft policy is similar in principle 
to the Safe
Harbor policy but pertains exclusively to species that are facing threats
but are not yet listed. The
goal is to remove threats to eliminate the need for listing. If a species
is nonetheless listed in the
future, the Services would authorize the property owner to return the
property to condition
mutually agreed to in the Candidate Conservation Agreement and would not
require the
participating property owner to do more to conserve the species.

Comments about the draft Safe Harbor and Candidate Conservation agreements 
policies
and accompanying regulatory changes to 50 Code of Federal Regulations Part
17 must be
received within 60 days after publication in the _______ (date) Federal
Register and should be
addressed to Chief, Division of Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife
Service, 1849 C St.
NW, (ARLSQ-452), Washington, DC 20240.




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