Federal Agencies Propose Revisions to Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances Policy under the Endangered Species Act

May 03, 2016

Connie Barclay
(301) 427-8029
connie.barclay@noaa.gov

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries today proposed revisions to the Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAAs) policy under the Endangered Species Act.

The revisions, which do not change requirements of participating landowners, will simplify the process of developing and approving CCAAs, which provide incentives for the public to implement specific conservation measures for declining species before they are listed under the ESA. The changes also can encourage additional non-federal landowners to participate in these agreements. The Service and NOAA Fisheries are actively working to engage conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and protect imperiled species, even before they are listed under the ESA.

The revision removes references to the term “other necessary properties.” In considering whether a property merits inclusion into a CCAA, the Service and NOAA Fisheries currently look at the totality of properties on which conservation measures would have to be implemented in order to preclude any need to list a species under the ESA. Although a landowner is proposing clearly beneficial actions, for a CCAA to remove the need to list a species, meeting the standard is dependent on other landowners undertaking additional actions that are beyond that landowners’ control. This created confusion with prospective CCAA enrollees and agreement administrators. In the place of ‘other necessary properties’, the proposed revision adds the term “net conservation benefit” to the policy to clarify the standard to which landowners will be held. For inclusion of their land into a CCAA under the revision, property owners would only need to demonstrate that their proposed actions will result in a net conservation benefit to the species being covered by the agreement.

Through the Candidate Conservation program, one of the goals is to encourage the public to implement specific conservation measures for declining species prior to them being listed under the ESA. The agencies put in place the CCAA program for non-federal property owners to help accomplish this goal. To participate in a CCAA, non-federal property owners agree to implement specific conservation measures that reduce or eliminate threats on their land to species covered under the agreement. In return, they receive assurances that they will not be required to undertake any additional conservation measures than those agreed to nor be subject to additional resource use or land use restrictions, even if subsequent information indicates that additional or revised conservation measures are needed for the species.

The Service is also proposing changes to its CCAA regulations to make them consistent with the proposed changes to the policy. The policy and regulation changes will align CCAAs with the net conservation benefit standard of Safe Harbor Agreements, which have a similar purpose to CCAAs but are designed to conserve species already listed under the ESA.

These revisions build on the success of the Obama Administration in improving regulations and implementing the ESA in new and innovative ways.

These regulatory improvements are consistent with Executive Order 13563, which calls for a retrospective analysis of existing rules to make the agency’s regulatory program more effective and less burdensome in achieving the regulatory objectives, and was included in the Department of the Interior's Final Plan for Retrospective Regulatory Review.

The notices will publish in the Federal Register on May 4, 2016. Written comments and information concerning this proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:

  • Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments to
  • FWS/NOAA Fisheries policy notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0177]
  • FWS regulations notice at Docket No. [FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0171]
  • U. S. mail or hand-delivery: Public Comments Processing, Attn: [FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0177] or [FWS-HQ-ES-2015-0171]; Division of Policy, Performance and Management Programs; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 5275 Leesburg Pike - MS: BPHC Falls Church, VA 22041-3808.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before July 5, 2016. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

The Endangered Species Act is an essential tool for conserving the nation’s most at-risk wildlife, as well as the land and water on which they depend for habitat. The ESA has prevented more than 99 percent of the species listed from going extinct, serving as the critical safety net for wildlife that Congress intended when it passed the law 40 years ago.

For more information, please visit: http://www.fws.gov/endangered/improving_ESA/ccaa.html.

The Service and NOAA Fisheries are actively engaged with conservation partners and the public in the search for improved and innovative ways to conserve and recover imperiled species. To learn more, visit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species or NOAA Fisheries' Endangered Species Conservation.

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