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 8/2/06, ESA Reform talking points and the cooperative conservation announcement
Forward compiled by
Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance (541)-850-9007

CropLife America POSITION PAPER 8/3/06 Endangered Species Act Modernization

The Secretaries of Interior, Commerce and Agriculture, the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality on Monday announced the dates and locations of the first eight listening sessions on cooperative conservation and environmental partnerships. These sessions, the first of at least two dozen to be held around the country, are scheduled at the following Western locations:

Spokane, Washington, 9 a.m., August 9, 2006, Washington State University Spokane, Phase 1 Room 122, Auditorium Helena, Montana, 1 p.m., August 14, 2006, Public Health and Human Services Building, Auditorium
Redmond, Oregon, 8:30 a.m., August 22, 2006, Deschutes County Fairgrounds Expo Center
Enid, Oklahoma, 1 p.m. August 30, 2006,Cherokee Strip Conference Center, Piner Hall
Redding, California, 9 a.m., September 13, 2006, Shasta County Board of Supervisors Chamber

Interior Secretary Kempthorne is expected to participate in sessions in Spokane and Redmond. Announcements will follow for other dates and times and the Cabinet Secretaries or other Federal officials who will attend.

The listening sessions will give citizens an opportunity to exchange ideas on incentives, partnership programs, and regulations that can improve results and promote cooperative conservation and environmental partnerships.

Attached please find two documents to aide you in participating in the in the listening sessions. First, you will find a document drafted by the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC) that provides talking points (BELOW) and information to be used in submitting written comments for the sessions.  Also attached  is the cooperative conservation announcement that was released several weeks ago. 

NESARC is also working to identify any Congressional staff working on the listening sessions for the host Congressman/Senators, and will pass along that contact information shortly.

The meetings are the latest in a series of discussions the Bush Administration has hosted since the President's Conference on Cooperative Conservation in August 2005. The conference identified three broad approaches to improving conservation results: promoting cooperation within the federal government, promoting cooperation between the federal government and others, and eliminating barriers to cooperation in existing policy. Some aspects of these ideas are reflected in the attached summary of new legislation. Other aspects will be explored in the listening sessions.

As you and your organizations receive feedback about people planning to attend these sessions, or complete written comments for submission, please let me know, and I can pass that information on to NESARC so that they may create an archive of the help provided to the Administration by members of the Coalition.  As NESARC receives information on individual efforts, they will share it with us to ensure the coordination of messages and activities.

It is imperative that you take advantage of the opportunity to interact with the administration on issues of significant importance - especially ESA improvements.  We would greatly appreciate your efforts to generate both numbers of people attending the sessions and written comments.  If you would like assistance with comments, or if you would like more information, please contact the Family Farm Alliance.

Dan Keppen, Executive Director, Family Farm Alliance (541)-850-9007


Participation in the Cooperative Conservation Listening Sessions
Talking Points

The Administration’s Cooperative Conservation Listening Sessions provide us with the opportunity to encourage the timely development and implementation of administrative improvements to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  It is important for NESARC members to attend these sessions and also to submit prepared remarks that can be used to establish a public record of the need for improvements to how the ESA is implemented by the federal agencies.  In preparing your remarks, we suggest the following:

Ø      Be Specific - The Administration is looking for specific examples of experiences with the ESA and other environmental laws.  If you have been involved in successful efforts to implement species conservation efforts, explain what made the effort work.  Similarly, if you have been involved in efforts that have not succeeded, explain what obstacles existed and what needs to change to facilitate such efforts.

Ø      Stress the Need for Timely Improvements to the ESA - We need to encourage the Administration to make improvements to their implementation of the ESA in 2006.  To the extent that the Administration has policies, guidance and regulatory improvements under consideration, they should act as quickly as possible to finalize and implement those improvements so that we can gain the benefit of that effort sooner rather than later. 

Ø      Make Specific Recommendations on Necessary Areas of Improvement - It is important that your remarks identify specific issues, regulations and policies that should be addressed in any administrative improvements package. 

o       Increase opportunities for voluntary conservation efforts – Some of the issues that you may want to raise are:

§         Better coordination of existing conservation grant programs

§         Removing bureaucratic barriers to voluntary participation in conservation programs

§         Provision of technical assistance to support voluntary conservation

§         Use of model form agreements

§         Expediting agency reviews

§         Ensuring application of incidental take authority to voluntary conservation efforts

§         No Surprises assurances should apply to voluntary conservation agreements

o       Role of State and Local Governments (including political subdivisions and special districts) -  Some of the issues that you may want to raise are:

§         Improve the role of State and Local Governments (including political subdivisions) through Section 6 cooperative agreements and other mechanisms under the Act

§         Encourage State and local government management of recovery efforts to ensure local control and participation

§         Recognition and promotion of State and local government efforts that can act as umbrella programs for small landowners

o       Improve Implementation of Section 7 Consultation Provisions – Some of the issues that you may want to raise are:

§         Remove the uncertainty created by the Gifford Pinchot decision with respect to the proper interpretation of “adverse modification” (if you have specific proposals on how to interpret “adverse modification” please include this in your prepared remarks)

§         Ensure that permit or license applicants and other stakeholders directly affected by a Section 7 consultation have the ability to fully participate in the consultation

§         Establish clear rules for the development of the “environmental baseline,” assessment of a species’ range, cumulative effects and other critical elements of the biological assessment and opinion analyses under the Section 7 consultation (if you have specific proposals on how to define such terms please include them in your prepared remarks)

§         Improve implementation through use of counterpart regulations that recognize specific agency expertise

§         In light of the Defenders of Wildlife decision, clarify that reasonable and prudent alternatives and reasonable and prudent measures required under Section 7 must be within an agency’s existing statutory authority to implement

o       HCPs and No Surprises -  Some of the issues that you may want to raise are:

§         Streamline the HCP development and approval process to avoid excessive preparation costs and development time

§         Develop programmatic permits and model agreements that can facilitate participation by smaller landowners and projects

§         Maintain and strengthen the “No Surprises” assurances policy

o       Ensuring Sound Decisionmaking and Improved Science:  Some of the issues that you may want to raise are:

§         Ensure compliance with Data Quality Act guidance in all ESA decisions

§         Improve the data requirements for listing petitions and critical habitat designations and ensure that all data is made available to the public

§         Review and refine procedures, information requirements and criteria for listing distinct population segments as well as classification of species

o       Critical Habitat Designations

§         Establish consistent rules, policies and procedures for designating critical habitat (please include specific proposals on criteria, definitions and review procedures that should be implemented)

§         Ensure that land and water already protected through other conservation activities including HCPs, Safe Harbor Agreements, conservation reserve program and other federal, state, and voluntary programs are not burdened by additional layers of bureaucracy through critical habitat designations

Ø      Reinforce Key MessagesTo the extent possible, we need to continually emphasize to the Administration throughout the listening sessions that we need timely action by the Administration in 2006 in bringing updates and improvements to the ESA that (1) make it easier for landowners, businesses and other organizations to protect species; (2) respect the needs of private property owners; and (3) encourage collaborative conservation that ultimately and equally benefit communities, citizens and species.  

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