Endangered Species Act Needs a Rehab
The nation’s home builders called on Congress on July 13 to update and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in order to protect the environment and enable local communities to grow and thrive.
“Clearly, we must find new ways to balance the needs of our growing communities, with the need to protect and conserve species and their habitats,” Paul Campos, general counsel and vice president of government affairs for the Home Builders Association of Northern California, told the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water.
Testifying on behalf of NAHB, Campos called on the Senate panel to expand landowner incentives under the ESA, and provide certainty to landowners that Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) and other voluntary species management programs will be excluded from critical habitat designations.
“Congress can help to further promote HCPs and other voluntary conservation measures by exempting these plans from the duplicative regulations of critical habitat designations. Any incentive to enter into an HCP is lost if the area at issue is also subject to regulation under critical habitat,” said Campos.
Habitat Conservation Plans are voluntary agreements between landowners and the federal government that seek to minimize and mitigate impacts to species and their habitats while allowing otherwise legal land development activities to proceed.
While NAHB supports these efforts and believes such plans have become integral components of species conservation efforts nationwide, Campos said that Congress must also codify the “no surprises” rule in order “to give private property owners, state and local governments and community organizations the necessary certainty to continue and even expand their species conservation efforts.”
By providing regulatory certainty, “property owners, builders and developers can undertake long-range planning and development operations confident that the time, money and effort devoted to creating and implementing Habitat Conservation Plans will not be lost because a federal agency changes its mind about what a species may need for recovery,” said Campos.
“Unfortunately, the no surprises rule has been subject to litigation in the past, leaving public and private landowners fearful that the federal government can require never-ending regulatory and conservation requirements from a permit holder. That is why Congress needs to codify it as part of the ESA,” he added.
For more information, e-mail Michael Strauss at NAHB, or call him at 800-368-5242 x8252.