Administration Issues proposed "No Surprises" Rule On Endangered Species Act

(05/29/1997) - The Clinton Administration today issued a proposed rule to codify its controversial `No Surprises' policy under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The `No Surprises' policy has been denounced by environmental groups and scientists as being inconsistent with the ESA and the conservation of endangered and threatened species. The policy locks-in often unproven mitigation measures in Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP's). HCP's are developed in return for permits that authorize the "incidental take" of endangered and threatened species. These plans can cover hundreds of species, they may apply to hundreds of thousands of acres, and they may last more than 100 years. After an HCP is approved and an Incidental Take Permit is issued, the `No Surprises' policy precludes the federal government from requiring certain additional conservation measures from the permit holder, even if the HCP is failing and species are declining as a result.

"We believe strongly that the `No Surprises' policy, as currently implemented, is scientifically indefensible and contrary to the goals and purposes of the Endangered Species Act. It should be repealed," said Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen.

In July of 1996 more than 160 scientists signed a letter addressed to Senator John Chafee and Congressman James Saxton criticizing `No Surprises' as proposed in legislation to reauthorize the ESA. The scientists wrote, "...this [No Surprises] section does not reflect ecological reality and rejects the best scientific knowledge and judgment of our era. It proposes a world that does not, has not, and will never exist."

The proposed rule was issued in response to a settlement agreement reached between the federal government and environmental groups opposed to the policy. Public comments will be solicited on the proposed rule until July 28, 1997, after which time the federal government will decide whether to amend, repeal, or reissue the policy as currently implemented.

"We hope the Clinton Administration in good faith will weigh the public's concerns with `No Surprises' and take the opportunity provided by the comment period to reconsider the wisdom of this policy," said Schlickeisen.



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270