U.S. FWS and NOAA announce ESA reform efforts
In a press release issued today, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries Service formally announced their joint effort to identify and implement administrative changes to the Endangered Species Act aimed at accelerating recovery of imperiled species, enhancing on-the-ground conservation delivery, and better engaging the resources and expertise of partners to meet the goals of the ESA. The Services will work to harness the expertise of career agency employees, the conservation community, landowners and other affected interests, and the broader public, to address selected issues. In particular, efforts will focus on:
-- Clarifying, expediting, and improving procedures for the development and approval of conservation agreements with landowners, including habitat conservation plans, safe harbor agreements, and candidate conservation agreements;
-- Reviewing and revising the process for designating critical habitat to design a more efficient, defensible, and consistent process;
-- Clarifying the definition of the phrase “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat, which is used to determine what actions can and cannot be conducted in critical habitat; and
-- Clarifying the scope and content of the incidental take statement, particularly with regard to programmatic actions or other actions where direct measurement is difficult. An incidental take statement is a component of a biological opinion that specifies the impact of an incidental taking of an endangered or threatened species and provides reasonable and prudent measures that are necessary to minimize those impacts. Greater flexibility in the quantification of anticipated incidental taking could reduce the burden of developing and implementing biological opinions without any loss of conservation benefits.
More information on Improving ESA Implementation can be found online at http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/reg_reform.html