December 21, 2005

MOVING SPECIES RECOVERY FORWARD

Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

On December 15, 2005, I introduced the bipartisan Collaboration for the Recovery of the Endangered Species Act (CRESA). For years now, Iâ??ve heard from many individuals and groups about the need to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As we debate this bill in 2006, I look forward to working with all who have concerns and suggestions on this critical issue. Over the years our state and nation have fiercely debated the merits of the ESA. But there is one fundamental concept on which all agreeâ??saving endangered species is essential. After thirty years, we understand both the intent and the shortcomings of the Act as it seeks to save species from extinction. We know about the endless conflict that pitts animals against people. Private property rights arenâ??t the enemy of conservation and we donâ??t have to choose animals over people when preserving biodiversity. We need to change this paradigm, because most species reside in habitat on private land. The good news is that weâ??ve seen people respond with ingenuity to challenges and produce something better in Idaho and elsewhere. Landowners, conservationists, local, state and federal agencies have come together, developed workable plans and set about the business of recovering species. The process is tried and true and must have the strength of law behind it. Collaboration works, moving the process of recovery forward. Litigation creates contention, not partnerships. Often we work against each other, rather than with and for each other. CRESA supports collaboration, producing win-win solutions for everyone and every species. Sage grouse recovery and slickspot peppergrass are two examples of successful collaboration in Idaho. Landowners and conservation groups came together to establish programs that respected landownersâ?? rights and satisfied environmental concerns. This cooperative effort, utilizing the wisdom of those who live and work on the land, expertise of specialists and those with knowledge of government rules and regulations, represents the paradigm shift that I believe holds the key to future species recovery. CRESA seeks to restore species with incentives that encourage landowners to voluntarily step forward to contribute to recovery efforts. Since cost burdens can be onerous, the ESA must make it easier and more financially viable to do recovery work. Laws must first positively reinforce public values and penalize only as a last resort. The old adage about the danger of burning bridges is relevant: much of the action driven by existing ESA rules and regulations burns bridgesâ??bridges that left intact, could bring species across the chasm of extinction to recovery. CRESA promotes flexibility, promoting individual solutions fine-tuned to meet specific challenges. Solutions that sound effective in the halls of Congress many times donâ??t work on the ground. One-size-fits-all doesnâ??t produce effective species recoveryâ??no two species, topography, environment or communities are the same, not even in the same county. Multiple considerations must be addressed in a cooperative, collaborative manner. We have innovative solutions that work and we need laws that facilitate this critical flexibility. Itâ??s time to come together and get to the real matter at hand. While there are great ideological divides on this issue, solutions to conservation challenges are not polarized. Landowners are instrumental to solving the challenge of species recovery and restoration. The Collaboration for the Recovery of Endangered Species Act facilitates effective species recoveryâ??species recovery not just for today, next week or next year, but for our children and grandchildren. I look forward to this bipartisan, progressive approach to improving species recovery and the debate in Congress. I encourage all who have concerns on this issue to contact me so the final outcome is the best for all involved. WORD COUNT: 600