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Landowners should be involved with ESA

Congress made progress this year on legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). While the legislation didn't pass, the American Farm Bureau Federation hopes the momentum will continue when the new Congress convenes in January.

``What we would like to see long term is a focus on cooperation between landowners and the agencies for the recovery of species," Rick Krause, AFBF director of regulatory relations, said, explaining that 80 percent of all endangered species exist on private lands and that 34 percent live exclusively on private lands.

The House Resources Committee passed two bills July 21 that would have changed the way ESA affected landowners. The Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act would require that ESA decisions be based on peer-reviewed science and a scientific review would be required of each proposal for listing or delisting a species from the endangered or threatened lists.

The Critical Habitat Reform Act would allow state and local governments to be involved with critical habitat designations so that critical habitats are not listed before the government assesses the economic impact on the surrounding community.

Krause said that getting both of the measures through committee was a success and he hopes that those efforts can be continued next year. The bills were a step in the right direction for involving landowners in ESA decisions, he said.

Krause said a good example of private landowners and the agencies working together is with the case of the mountain plover in Colorado. Colorado Farm Bureau created a program in which landowners allowed the bird to be studied on their lands, and the birds' habitats were flagged. Farmers were able to adapt their farming so the species' numbers have remained stable and the bird has remained off the endangered species and threatened lists.

``The focus should be on recovery," Krause said. ``A recovery plan should be established rather than listing species with no goal or inclination of recovering after listing."

In addition, Krause said that it's important to delist species once they have recovered. Several species on the list have recovered biologically but the regulatory process of delisting has not occurred.

More than 1,200 species of animals, bugs and plants are on the endangered or threatened list. According to the National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, of which AFBF is a member, the current law is a failure in terms of species recovery. Only 40 species have been taken off the list-nine because they became extinct and 15 because of ``data error," meaning there was actually insufficient data to support listing those species in the first place. Only 16 recovered.


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