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Finance Committee approves incentives for landowners to help species

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo's groundbreaking legislation to update the Endangered Species Act took a key step toward becoming law today. The legislation, the Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 700), cleared the Senate Finance Committee as part of a larger measure, the Habitat and Land Conservation Act. Crapo's bill provides tax incentives for private landowners to improve habitat for endangered and threatened species.

"Support for this consensus approach to species recovery has been growing since Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Arkansas) and I first introduced the legislation in December of 2005," Crapo said. "We now have 22 co-sponsors, Democrats, Republicans and Independents, which include the Senate Majority Leader and the Chairman and Ranking Member of the Finance Committee. The language for ESRA was not amended and I am pleased to see it combined with related species recovery efforts as we move the legislation through the Senate."

The package approved today by the Finance Committee has a companion bill in the House, H.R. 1422, which is before the House Ways and Means Committee. Under the legislation, landowners including farmers and ranchers would receive tax credits for participating in species recovery efforts.

"Endangered species recovery will accelerate as a result of this legislation, and it involves a lot more people in species recovery efforts," Crapo said. "Over 80% of endangered species live on private land; encouraging private property owners to be part of the solution in assisting those species is essential. This legislation addresses that fact by encouraging landowner cooperation to avoid conflict and provide real results for species recovery by providing needed habitat. The support of more than a hundred interest groups and so many Senators demonstrates we can break through the gridlock that has stalled needed legislation for species recovery. Today's action is a victory for the collaborative work between our office and Senator Lincoln's with Finance Committee leadership, as well as the many conservation, natural resource and other groups who have lent their support and expertise to this legislation."

Groups with wide-ranging interests and coalitions have endorsed the measure, including: The National Wildlife Federation, American Farm Bureau, Environmental Defense, National Association of Conservation Districts; National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association, Defenders of Wildlife, Ducks Unlimited and many others have contributed to the legislative effort.

Crapo says the program could enlist more than two million acres of private land in species recovery efforts by offering tax credits. The provisions are modeled after many voluntary programs in the Farm Bill.