Species at Risk: Using Economic Incentives to Shelter Endangered Species on Private Lands

Species at Risk: Using Economic Incentives to Shelter Endangered Species on Private Lands

Species at Risk: Using Economic Incentives to Shelter Endangered Species on Private Lands

Species at Risk: Using Economic Incentives to Shelter Endangered Species on Private Lands

Synopsis

Protecting endangered species of animals and plants is a goal that almost everyone supports in principle--but in practice private landowners have often opposed the regulations of the Endangered Species Act, which, they argue, unfairly limits their right to profit from their property. To encourage private landowners to cooperate voluntarily in species conservation and to mitigate the economic burden of doing so, the government and nonprofit land trusts have created a number of incentive programs, including conservation easements, leases, habitat banking, habitat conservation planning, safe harbors, candidate conservation agreements, and the "no surprise" policy.In this book, lawyers, economists, political scientists, historians, and zoologists come together to assess the challenges and opportunities for using economic incentives as compensation for protecting species at risk on private property. They examine current programs to see how well they are working and also offer ideas for how these programs could be more successful. Their ultimate goal is to better understand how economic incentive schemes can be made both more cost-effective and more socially acceptable, while respecting a wide range of views regarding opportunity costs, legal standing, biological effectiveness, moral appropriateness, and social context.

Excerpt

Once a species has disappeared from the face of the earth, it doesn’t come back. Extinction is irrevocable. This indisputable fact adds importance and urgency to the work that Jason Shogren and colleagues undertake in Species at Risk: Using Economic Incentives to Shelter Endangered Species on Private Lands. Correctly designed market incentives can provide us with an efficient and effective set of tools to relieve and redirect pressures that are leading to the extinction or endangerment of species. By extension these same tools can enhance the habitat and natural resource base on which the country’s social, economic, and environmental vitality depend.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was conceived with the best of intentions and, indeed, has many noteworthy achievements to its credit. It is hard to argue with the preamble to the 1973 law that identifies the goal of the legislation to conserve and protect “the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species of wildlife depend.” Yet in practice the law has too often become polarizing and, in the view of many landowners and conservationists alike, provides perverse incentives that can work against the protection of species, especially on private land.

Although many of the act’s provisions remain controversial, there is widespread agreement that promoting and encouraging more effective participation of private landowners in conservation efforts will result in better conservation of threatened and endangered species, and perhaps more important, help prevent species from getting to the point where they are threatened in the first place. Numerous discussions have focused on this subject: the board of the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources (IENR) at the University of Wyoming devoted its spring 1996 forum to developing a series of principles to guide policy changes to the . . .

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