Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced an agreement that will provide long-term regulatory predictability for up to 30 years to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners participating in USDA’s Working Lands for Wildlife (WLFW) initiative. The Nature Conservancy and other conservation and sportsmen organizations praised the news.
Under the agreement, farmers, ranchers and forest landowners who implement and voluntarily agree to maintain the proven conservation practices in WLFW will have addressed the related Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulatory responsibilities for up to 30 years. These landowners will be able to operate their farms and ranches as agreed upon, providing economic benefits and species conservation simultaneously.
“This agreement empowers landowners so they can keep working lands in production while achieving important conservation goals,” said Bob Bendick, Director of U.S. Government Relations for The Nature Conservancy. “This groundbreaking new approach will help farmers, ranchers and forest landowners have more confidence that when they act to protect wildlife habitat and essential natural resources they will not be penalized later when populations of listed species increase on their lands.”
“In essence, the federal government will grant farmers, ranchers and forest landowners regulatory predictability in return for voluntarily making wildlife habitat improvements on their private agricultural and forest lands,” continued Bendick. “This is just the kind of innovative thinking that we need to make conservation more effective and long-lasting in today’s complex world. It marks a significant and greatly beneficial shift in how we manage at-risk and listed species on private lands. The environment, private landowners and American taxpayers all win in this scenario.”
Under the WLFW partnership, federal, state and wildlife experts jointly identified at-risk or listed species that would benefit from targeted habitat restoration investments on private lands. Using the best available science, these wildlife experts prioritized restoration actions on a large regional scale to focus assistance most cost effectively. The WLFW program includes seven species, including the greater sage-grouse and lesser prairie chicken. This new program builds upon the current voluntary special initiatives and partnerships with farmers and ranchers to help prevent these at-risk species from being listed.
The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. The Conservancy and its more than 1 million members have protected nearly 120 million acres worldwide. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at www.nature.org.
The Nature Conservancy