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FEATURED PROFESSIONAL: Jim Riley, Executive Director, Intermountain Forest Industry Association, ESA Reform

Featured Professional: Jim Riley, Executive Director Intermountain Forest Association

ESA Reform: A new approach for small forest landowners

There is probably no issue that has the potential to impact more individuals, businesses, and communities than the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Ranchers have been threatened by lawsuits simply because they graze their cattle near salmon spawning habitat, and the ability of private forest owners to use their land has been limited because logging activities might affect a protected species.

Millions of dollars are spent every year, and entire communities are put in jeopardy, but species are not actually recovering. In fact, of the more than 1,200 listed endangered species, less than a dozen have been delisted since the 1973 passage of the ESA.

The time has come for the ESA to treat property owners fairly; to consider the social and economic impacts to people and communities; and to truly protect rare plants and animals by making people champions of species protection rather than fearful of it. The Endangered Species Recovery Act, introduced by Senators Kempthorne (R-ID) and Chaffee (R-RI), will help meet these goals.

The Kempthorne ESA legislation proposes new options for small private landowners all of which, if enacted, should make it much easier for NIPF owners to quickly address ESA concerns. While there are probably better ideas, these concepts are a huge step forward for property owners who want some assurance that management of their lands will not be in conflict with the ESA, or those interested in adjusting management plans to benefit listed species.

Kempthorne’s bill proposes an end to the command and control approach to management from Washington D.C. and returns power and authority to local communities and land managers. It requires the release of species data to landowners upon request; provides grants for landowners to carry out implementation plans; provides a more streamlined Habitat Conservation Plan process for activities with minimal effect on listed species; and recognizes the safe harbor concept to benefit both landowners and species.

Perhaps most importantly, it recognizes that while we have a responsibility to preserve rare and unique species of plants and animals, we also have a responsibility to include the needs of people in the balance. This bill gives stakeholders a role in the recovery planning process, standing to challenge decisions that affect their lives, and protection from abuses in enforcement. At IFIA, policies effecting NIPF owners are extremely important to us. As ESA reform moves forward, we look forward to working together with small landowners to refine these ideas. If you would like more information on the Kempthorne-Chaffee bill, please feel free to call the IFIA office at (208) 667-4641.

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