Protect Species, Save Money

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is one heck of a tough law. While it has accomplished a lot since its passage 30 years ago, many complain that it grants the government far too much power. When a landowner/developer makes the decision to build or change existing structures, the regulatory process is pretty daunting. If you throw an endangered species of plant or animal into the mix, it becomes downright overwhelming. Landowners/developers may be faced with constructing new habitats, hiring expensive specialists, and/or being forbidden to build at all.

Congress built a few escape valves into the ESA that allow landowner/developers to buy their way out of the creature saving business. Fees placed on special building permits are used by the government to buy new land that is manipulated to recreate the habitat of the affected species. The species is then moved to their new artificial home. Obviously synthetic habitats are an odd way of protecting species, and the fines levied on landowners/developers can be high.

According to the Associated Press, Congress is investigating a new approach to protecting species that is more friendly to the property owner and could result in better conditions for species. Right now, the Democratic chairman and senior Republican on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee are devising a tax credit scheme that would grant tax exemptions to landowners/developers who sufficiently set aside land or otherwise protect endangered species. This would create an incentive for landowners/developers to protect species rather than pitting them against one another.

Read more about it here. I think this is a great move that should result in a less combative fight over protecting species.

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