Endangered Species Recovery  Incentives for Habitat Conservation 

A Position of the Louisiana Society of American Foresters


The Louisiana Chapter of the Society of American Foresters (LASAF) encourages Congress to foster the recovery of threatened and endangered (T&E) species by adopting legislation to provide landowners financial incentives for managing their lands for T&E habitat conservation.


The availability of suitable habitat is a major problem for most listed species.   Recovery will likely require the cooperation of private landowners to set aside suitable land and implement specific management practices; this cooperation will only occur when it is economically feasible for private landowners to provide this habitat.   Several different types of incentives could be effective in achieving landowner cooperation, including property easements, tax-based incentives, and cost-share programs.


The Endangered Species Act (ESA) became law in 1973 with the purpose of conserving ecosystems upon which T&E species depend and to provide a program to conserve such species.   The current ESA provides little incentive for private landowners who own suitable habitat to manage their property for T&E species conservation.   The Safe Harbor program with its "no surprises" provisions offer an incentive of sorts in terms of limiting liability for future occurrences of T&E species.   However, there are at two least reasons why this policy may be limited in effectiveness.  Landowners who are not able or willing to absorb the loss of income normally generated from the property set aside are not likely to participate.   In addition, even at its optimum, the Safe Harbor program would only maintain the status quo, offering no incentive to expand critical habitat and expansion of T&E communities.


Losses of wetlands, forested lands, and coastal zones have been addressed and successfully offset through incentive-based policies in the past.   Incentive programs to encourage private landowners to restore these ecosystems were created by the Federal government, and private landowners avidly capitalized on them.  The FIP, CRP, WRP, EQIP, and the Water Bank are all successful programs designed to persuade property owners to practice certain land management activities for the benefit of society.

In contrast to the incentive or "carrot" approach which has been established for ecosystem restoration, the ESA imposes a "stick" approach, imposing penalties for incidental takings or harming an T&E species;  "harm" may be construed to include habitat modifications coincidental to landowners'  management activities.
The LASAF advocates the adoption of incentive-based policies to foster T&E species recovery and habitat conservation on private property, in keeping with the successful ecosystem restoration incentive programs.  

About the Society:

Gifford Pinchot and six other pioneer foresters founded the Society of American Foresters in 1900.  The Society, with about 18,000 members, is the national organization representing the forestry profession.  The Louisiana Society of American Foresters, with about 600 members, represents all segments of the profession in the State.