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Commentaries and editorials

Crapo Considers Group Approach
to Endangered Species

by Nate Poppino
The News Tribune, April 6, 2010

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo is a man who firmly believes there's nothing you can't solve with a chat.

Crapo orchestrated a new wilderness area in the Owyhees by gathering around a table as many groups as were willing to talk about it and hashing out a deal.

He's endorsed an attempt to bring water users of all stripes together to solve the problems facing Idaho's largest underground aquifer. And he's called for comprehensive talks to resolve the problems facing Pacific Northwest salmon.

Now, he's considering applying his collaborative approach to an even larger project. The Endangered Species Act could benefit from a greater focus on group-based decision-making, he said Friday, and he's considering pursuing the issue once his current ESA idea -- tax credits for landowners -- reaches the finish line.

Ideally, the process would move "away from the sort of centralized command and control enforcement approach to (focus) much more broadly on creating consensus among groups," Crapo said, noting that introducing the idea would depend on what Congress ends up looking like after this fall's election.

As example, the senator offered up the partnership between state agencies, local working groups and the federal government to help the greater sage grouse, which U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last month designated as a candidate species worth listing under the ESA but precluded for now.

"The administration decided not to list (the bird)... in significant part, based on the collaborative efforts to move it forward," Crapo said.

He would insert more collaboration at every step of the process, from listing to recovery. But he's also realistic about how much he can alter the ESA's fundamental tenets. Though he can envision splitting listing authority among more groups than just the Interior secretary, that's probably not going to happen.

"The likelihood is that the lead agency will probably retain the ultimate decision-making authority," he said.

Nate Poppino
Crapo Considers Group Approach to Endangered Species
The News Tribune, April 6, 2010

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