New "recovery crediting system" could undermine federal actions to safeguard imperiled species

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Defenders of Wildlife urges caution in shifting responsibility to private landowners

(08/01/2008) -

WASHINGTON – On Thursday, the Department of the Interior announced new guidance intended to give federal agencies “greater flexibility” in addressing the impacts of their actions on threatened and endangered species living on federal lands. The rule would allow federal agencies to conduct activities that damage or destroy wildlife habitat on federal lands – lands which are essentially the only home for nearly a quarter of the nation’s imperiled species – and compensate for those activities by performing conservation actions on private land.

The following is a statement by Defenders of Wildlife executive vice president Jamie Rappaport Clark, former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Clinton administration:

“We welcome the increased focus by federal agencies on recovery of threatened and endangered species. But the guidance issued today is so vague, and so lacking in specific direction and safeguards, that it may actually allow or encourage federal agencies to duck their conservation responsibilities by shifting the burden of safeguarding these species to private landowners. 

“Under the Endangered Species Act and other federal laws, federal agencies managing federal lands have a special obligation to conserve viable populations of plants and animals, including threatened and endangered species. This requirement does not apply to private lands, of course, making federal lands key to the conservation of threatened and endangered species. The new ‘recovery crediting system’ guidance must not be allowed to undermine this duty. Instead, it should encourage federal land conservation efforts in addition to conservation efforts on private and state lands.”

Read the Department of the Interior’s press release.

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Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities.  With more than 1 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come.  For more information, visit www.defenders.org.

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, Defenders of Wildlife, 202-772-3270

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