In mid-July, the Trump administration announced its plan to reform the Endangered Species Act as part of its goal to roll back burdensome regulations. The proposal would allow protections for threatened and endangered species to be determined on a case-by-case basis and for officials to take economic impact into account during the decision-making process. These proposed changes reaffirm the importance of the private sector bearing increased responsibility in protecting wildlife habitats and endangered species.
The Endangered Species Act, passed in 1973 under President Nixon with strong bipartisan support, is arguably the nation’s most important law for the protection for America’s wildlife. The Act has been credited with the survival of numerous species, including the bald eagle, the humpback whale and the gray wolf. Additionally, it enjoys strong public support, with four out of five Americans backing the legislation.
While some claim the law impedes economic growth, the Act’s supporters argue that any changes to the law could increase the probability of a given species going extinct. While there is much debate on this issue, Congress’ support of the conservation easement legislation is ensuring that private lands with endangered or threatened species can be voluntarily conserved, thereby ensuring important species survive.
While government-run conservation efforts play a vital role in protecting the habitats of endangered species across the country, 70 percent of America’s lands are held under private ownership. Consequently, the private sector has a tremendous opportunity to help maintain a healthy balance between economic growth and environmental protection. Moreover, protecting the land and water habitats for our nation’s endangered species is too important a mission to rely on federal funds alone.
And that is why Congress updated the tax code in 2015 to make permanent an incentive that opens private conservation to a broader range of Americans. By encouraging individual, family and partnership landowners to voluntarily conserve their private property, millions of acres have been saved across the country. The conservation easement incentive implemented by Congress and approved with bipartisan support is working exactly as intended. Without it, the precious habitats of endangered species would be transformed into strip malls and condos.
Though the current incentive is working as intended, improvements can and should be made where possible – but without losing sight of our goals to increase land conservation and protect wildlife habitats, especially those of threatened and endangered species. That is why Partnership for Conservation (P4C) has developed legislative proposals that address rare instances of abuse but also ensure that the significant expansion of private conservation can continue to grow.
P4C’s legislative proposals include:
P4C’s common-sense proposals will allow land conservation and the preservation of wildlife habitats, particularly those of endangered species, to continue to expand responsibly. The future of America’s wildlife is at stake.