To: Mr. Jim Serfis, Chief, Office of Communications and Candidate Conservation
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
RE: Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking ‐ Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants; Expanding Incentives for Voluntary Conservation Actions Under the Endangered Species Act
The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) appreciates the opportunity to submit comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS or “the Service”) for consideration in its efforts to update the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as requested in its March 15, 2012 Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR). When developed in collaboration with stakeholders and narrowly defined to achieve specific conservation goals, guidance of this nature can be beneficial to all parties.
The ANPR seeks comments on a proposed program to grant credits for conservation actions undertaken by landowners for candidate species. For that purpose, the ANPR asks nine questions on how such a candidate species conservation credit program should be implemented. In addition, the ANPR requests comments on the general objectives of the ESA Administrative Improvement review now being conducted by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS).
To that end, SEIA’s comments are set forth in two general areas: 1) responses to the proposed candidate conservation program; and 2) general ESA administrative reforms. As a general matter, SEIA requests that USFWS expedite the development of proactive, site-specific plans for ESA candidate species which provide credits in the event the species is eventually listed. In addition, to ensure the long-term development of solar energy as a significant share of the national energy portfolio and protect endangered and threatened wildlife and plants, USFWS should further reform the ESA process to provide the public with ample information regarding the ecological sustainability and suitability of land prior to development; set forth clear standards to make the section 10 incidental take permit (ITP) process more efficient and expeditious; provide strong assurances to landowners regarding the development of species conservation measures, such as habitat conservation plans (HCPs), candidate conservation agreements with assurances (CCAAs) and safe harbor agreements (SHAs) on private lands so that investors will have the certainty they need to commit to project development; develop similar mechanisms for conservation credits, assurances, and certainty for development on public lands under section 7, rather than only under section 10; establish more efficient and cost-effective mechanisms for making decisions under sections 7 and 10; ensure that sound science serves as the basis for biological opinions; and encourage greater use of mitigation to provide increased flexibility for renewable energy project development and additional species protection.
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