The U.S. Senate introduced a strong Endangered Species Act reauthorization bill this week. Supporters believe it sets a positive tone for next year's debate on one of the nation's most important environmental laws.
The Endangered Species Recovery Act, S.3156, was introduced by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and ten other Senators: Boxer (D-CA), Dodd (D-CT), Kennedy (D-MA), Kerry (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Moynihan, (D-NY), Reed (D-RI), Schumer (D-NY), Torricelli (D-NJ), and Wellstone (D-MN). A companion bill in the House (H.R. 960) has more than 100 bipartisan cosponsors.
"We need more people like these to speak up for our nation's imperiled wildlife," said Heather Weiner, Chair of the Endangered Species Coalition. "Extinction is not an option under the current ESA, and now recovery will be our focus under the new law."
The goal of the Endangered Species Recovery Act (ESRA) is to recover, and eventually delist, the nation's 1,233 species now considered endangered or threatened.
Unlike the current ESA, ESRA includes a tax incentives program to reward landowners for voluntary conservation measures. Estate tax deferrals, income tax credits, and state property tax deductions are awarded to people who make improvements or manage their lands to benefit the recovery of endangered species. For instance, encouraging the growth of endangered plants on one's property would qualify one for a tax break, as would growing stands of old pine to host threatened red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Senator Lautenberg's ESRA also includes:
- scientific standards for private development permits.
- encouragement of comprehensive regional habitat plans that ensure species recovery.
- recovery plan deadlines and biological standards to ensure species recovery.
- stronger checks and balances on taxpayer funded agencies and projects.
- increased opportunities for citizen involvement in local endangered species issues.
"More than 400 conservation, scientific, religious, and business groups support ESRA," said Brock Evans, Endangered Species Coalition Executive Director. "We hope that the next Congress will stop the shenanigans of anti-endangered species riders, and make passage of ESRA its highest priority."