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Effort will update and strengthen 30-year-old ESA law

Washington, DC â?? A bipartisan effort to update and strengthen the Endangered Species Act (ESA) takes a large step forward with assistance from U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas). Crapo and Lincoln have partnered to write legislation that will address several areas of the ESA. Crapo and Lincoln are co-chairing a working group in Congress that is coordinating its efforts with the appropriate committees of jurisdiction in the Senate and U.S. House of Representatives. In February, Crapo joined Senator Lincoln Chafee (R-Rhode Island), who chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water; Representative Richard Pombo (R-California), who chairs the House Resources Committee, and Representative Greg Walden (R-Oregon) to announce a bicameral effort directed at the same goal.Crapo, who has already gathered several Republican supporters, said, â??Congress has been examining the ESA for ten years and is ready for a breakthrough that maintains protections and improves recovery for species. This can only be done with commitments from all parties involved; collaboration and cooperation are essential for this effort to be successful. I am pleased that Senator Lincoln has joined with me in this effort. We will continue to seek partnerships with other Senators and Congressmen who share the principles that are directing our legislative efforts. I am committed to resolving long-standing issues with ESA so the law works better for species and for people.â??â??In looking at the ESA and the issues surrounding it, I am convinced that it can be improved,â?? Lincoln said. â??All parties involved recognize the value of biological diversity, and I believe solutions can be found that will better protect species without hindering the rights of landowners. Senator Crapo and I along with many others will work hard to find workable and common-sense solutions that will move us in the right direction.â??The five issues under consideration are:· Incentivesâ??Draft language will provide positive incentives including direct payments to landowners for their commitments to conservation.· Commitmentsâ??The commitment to recovery must be as serious as commitments to protection. We have worked hard over the first 30 years of the Act to protect species. We must build on that with more progress toward recovery.· State rolesâ??State government can play a stronger role. Involving states involves more wildlife professionals and access to existing relationships with landowners, both of which enlarge the team of people promoting recovery.· Critical Habitatâ??Habitat is critical to wildlife, but the Critical Habitat provisions of the Act need reform. Our goal should be to protect and improve habitat in the most effective way possible.· Scienceâ??Just as habitat is fundamental to wildlife, science is fundamental to how we care for wildlife. Science must be credible, reliable, and subject to independent review to provide a more open process for contentious decision making.Additionally, Crapo and Lincoln agree that any bill to update the Act must build trust and confidence among the members of Congress, state and federal agencies, and interest groups in the private sector. They said, â??We will listen to all interests, work to create win-win solutions and draft legislation thoughtfully. The solutions that have worked on the ground will provide the foundation for what we propose to write into law. Our goal is to spark and sustain more active recovery for listed species by working cooperatively with landowners. In doing so, we believe that this will reduce conflict and bring more recovery results.â??At present, Crapo and Lincoln have not specified a time frame for introduction of the measure, which is still being drafted. They intend to introduce the bill in the 109th Congress.