October 19, 2005


Guest opinion submitted by Idaho Senator Mike Crapo

Teddy Roosevelt first applied the term â??conservationâ?? to the process of wise-use and preservation of natural resources. A century later, conservation laws have successfully restored species like the American bald eagle, gray whale and peregrine falcon to sustainable populations. This is a terrific start to the greater goals of preserving wildland resources, which is the intention behind the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These goals have strong public support, including mine. The many people in Idaho, other western states, and in the East who support the Act are continually working out better and better ideas for achieving the goals of the Act.In Idaho, some of our initiatives include the Targhee Creek project, the Lemhi Agreement, the Kootenai Valley Resource Initiative, the Nez Perce Snake River Basin Agreement, and conservation agreements for slickspot peppergrass and sage grouse. Not surprisingly, to Idahoans the answer came from places like Challis, Mountain Home and Bonners Ferry.As we seek solutions on the ground, we improve our chances to improve the ESA in Congress. Thatâ??s why I am writing an ESA bill that will help people recover species, and thatâ??s why the bill will earn support from both parties in Congress.This is a better way. First, it shows the true respect for wildlife that Idaho landowners have as they provide for their families our economy. Naturally, these are the best folks to look to for examples of how to strengthen the ESA for species and people. For example, the Idahoans who started and run the Upper Salmon Basin Watershed Project realized that landowners should lead the way; now they produce more conservation than many federal regulations intended to promote the same.Initiatives to recover species are the right way also because they rely on respect for private property instead of regulations alone. Regulations are important, but not sufficient for achieving the goals of the Act.The wisdom in the new approach will help break gridlock in Washington. Before the stalemate over ESA in Congress, the Act was improved 3 times between 1973 and 1988. Those changes were all designed to promote recovery. The ESA hasnâ??t been amended for the last 17 years largely because of misunderstandings and resentment which have occurred under the current regulatory system. We can break the gridlock because good ideas are stronger than misunderstandings. When we do, the innovative agreements like those mentioned above will become routine under the improved law. To move this along, Iâ??ve formed a bipartisan group of Senators to champion this common-sense approach to my Senate colleagues. The diverse, experienced Idaho perspective is critical as we work on this valuable legislation. Weâ??ve established the following issues to focus on in the process:-Positive incentives â?? including direct payments -- to landowners;-Establishing a commitment to recovery as serious as our commitment to protection;-More opportunity for states involvement in the recovery of species.This is critical work. Conservation is a process; we only learn what works from experience, successes and failures. We have a profound responsibility to our precious natural resources, wildlife, land and water, and to future generations to apply these lessons toward improving the system.