U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and NOAA Fisheries Solicit Public Input on Conservation Agreements Policy under the Endangered Species Act
FWS posted the following notice on one of its websites:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the NOAA Fisheries are actively working to engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and protect imperiled species, even before they are listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
The agencies are committed to strengthening the delivery of voluntary conservation tools, such as Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA), by making it easier to work together on conservation efforts, thus are soliciting public review and comment on whether to revise the existing CCAA policy and accompanying regulations.
Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances are designed to provide an incentive to landowners to implement specific conservation measures for declining species that are not currently listed under the ESA. To participate in a CCAA, non-federal property owners can voluntarily implement specific conservation measures that reduce or eliminate threats on their land to species covered under the agreement. In return, they receive assurances that they will not be required to undertake any additional conservation measures nor be subject to additional resource use or land use restrictions, even if the species becomes listed under the ESA.
In order to improve the process for working with states, tribes and private landowners, the Service and NOAA Fisheries finalized a revision of the CCAA policy on December 27, 2016.
The policy and regulation revisions did not change landowner requirements for participation in the program, but rather clarified and simplified the standard for approving CCAAs. These changes were designed to encourage more landowners to participate in these agreements, and to speed up the approval process, by making the approval standard simpler and clearer. However, these changes have been interpreted in different ways by some members of the public, with some interpreting it to be a higher standard while others considered it to be a lower standard than the previous policy.
Based on comments received, the agencies will decide whether and how to revise the policy and regulations. The notice will publish in the Federal Register on November 22, 2017. Written comments and information concerning these notices can be submitted by one of the following methods:
- Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to
- FWS/NOAA Fisheries policy notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0074]
- FWS regulations notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0075]
- U. S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0074] or [FWS-HQ-ES-2017-0075]; Division of Policy, Performance and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike – MS: BPHC Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.
Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before January 22, 2018. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.