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SCB Offers Comments and Recommendations to Improve Voluntary Conservation Efforts for Endangered Species

July 12, 2012.  Today, the Society for Conservation Biology submitted formal comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service on ways to improve voluntary conservation initiatives for declining and endangered species.  Over half of the species protected by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) rely to some extent on habitat found on private or State-owned lands.  Accordingly, there is a need to develop stronger incentives to promote conservation activities on these lands in order to benefit threatened and endangered species is urgent.  In particular, SCB made the following specific comments and recommendations:

  1. While it is important to create incentives for voluntary conservation actions, strengthening existing regulatory disincentives for non-compliance with the ESA is equally important.  
  2. All voluntary conservation programs including Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), Safe Harbor Agreements (SHAs), Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs), and Conservation Banks should be standardized to the fullest extent possible such that they are implemented consistently throughout the landscape in a transparent manner.  
  3. All voluntary conservation programs must result in a net conservation benefit for a species, both for declining species that may become listed in the future and for currently listed species.
  4. For a net conservation benefit to be meaningful, it must be defined by a biologically-appropriate, scientifically based mitigation ratio of 2:1 in all cases (wherein two conservation “credits” must be generated to offset a single conservation “debit”).  
  5. All voluntary conservation incentives programs must include mandatory monitoring, verification, and self-reporting to be effective.
  6. FWS should publish a directory of programs and provisions that can provide financial and technical assistance to landowners and managers who are considering undertaking voluntary conservation measures.

SCB’s full comments can be found HERE.