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Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2006 10:29 AM
Subject: [Capr-discussion] Interior secretary backs Endangered Species Actrevamp

Interior secretary backs Endangered Species Act revamp

By JOHN MILLER
Associated Press writer
BOISE, Idaho -- Interior Secretary Gale Norton is backing congressional efforts to rewrite the federal Endangered Species Act, an undertaking that could give landowners tax breaks for helping plants and animals and allocate more power to political appointees.

"We need to take a hard look at how the (Endangered Species Act) is structured and administered," Norton said during a statehouse ceremony Thursday that transferred management of about 600 Idaho wolves from the federal government to the state. "We will continue to work with Congress."

Environmentalists credit the 1973 environmental law with helping prevent the extinction of such creatures as the bald eagle, grizzly bear and wolf. Some farm and property rights groups contend it hinders legitimate land uses and generates lawsuits.

In September, the House passed a bill by Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo, R-Calif., that would compensate property owners if species-protection requirements foiled development plans. The House measure also would put political appointees in charge of making some scientific determinations, and prevent "critical habitat" designations in some areas.

A Senate version, introduced last month by Sens. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., includes provisions designed to win support from landowners, such as citizen committees they could sit on to help guide species-recovery plans.

That measure also would set up "conservation banks" that property owners could use to accumulate and trade credits for actions to help species, and give property owners tax credits for actions that conserve species or help them recover.

Environmental groups including New York City-based Environmental Defense have voiced fewer objections to the Senate measure than to the House bill. Still, they have expressed concern that the Senate proposal could give too much influence to landowners and others who are supposed to be regulated by the law.

Norton said the landmark Endangered Species Act has failed because only a handful of the 1,268 listed species have been declared recovered.

"The goal of the Endangered Species Act is to recover to the point where (endangered animals) no longer need the protections," Norton said. "It's the same as hospital. The purpose of a hospital is not to keep people there."


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