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Idaho Senators Introduce
ESA Reform Bills in Congress

by Pat McCoy
Capital Press, March 9, 2007

Controversial proposals dropped

Idaho's two U.S. senators have introduced bills in Congress to make changes to how the Endangered Species Act is administered.

A slimmed-down version of one of the bills that focuses primarily on tax incentives for landowners was introduced in the Senate Finance Committee in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 28.

Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, presented a bill that both the committee chairman and the ranking minority member have signed onto, giving it a good chance of passing on the Senate floor, said Lindsey Nothern, press spokesman for Crapo.

Crapo was also optimistic as he discussed the legislation last week in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho.

"I'm positive about this legislation because we developed it in a very open, collaborative manner," the senator said.

The bill offers technical assistance and protection from incidental take provisions and encourages landowners to get involved in projects that will help protect endangered species and their habitat, Northern said. The bill stops short of a formal wildlife habitat program. Grants given to property owners to protect endangered species would not be treated as taxable income.

The proposed legislation does not change the Endangered Species Act itself. More controversial provisions in Crapo's original proposal were dropped. They involved an overall reform of the entire process and called for more money for species recovery, he said.

"The bill is going through the Senate Finance Committee because in some cases the tax incentives granted to landowners could be sizable. It will cost the federal government in that those monies just won't be collected," he said.

Crapo's bill trails one introduced Feb. 16 by Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, and Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., which is entitled the Endangered Species Reform Act of 2007.

That bill, according to a statement from Craig's office, improves the listing process by requiring science that is field-tested and peer-reviewed. It also requires the Secretary of the Interior to verify that sufficient biological data exists to support recovery planning and sets minimum requirements for a list petition.

The Craig-Thomas bill also increases states' involvement in the listing and recovery process and mandates that a recovery plan be published at the time a species is listed. It also dictates that a species be taken off the endangered species list when recovery criteria are met.

"The ESA is plagued with problems, ranging from the listing process to the recovery process to the delisting process. It has evolved to have more control over natural resource policy and management than was originally intended. As a result, all activities, from recreation to industry and the states' ability to manage wildlife, are severely hampered by the restrictive nature of the ESA," Craig said.

Pat McCoy is based in Boise.
Idaho Senators Introduce ESA Reform Bills in Congress
Capital Press, March 9, 2007

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