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    Study finds biodiversity stewardship incentives can be enhanced by regulatory assurances

    Depending on who you talk to, the Endangered Species Act is either a stunning success, preventing the extinction of 99% of fish and wildlife protected under the Act, or a miserable failure, only achieving recovery and delisting of roughly 2% of listed species. These statistics – both true, yet almost impossibly at odds – are frequently lobbed from one side of the aisle to the other in the halls and hearing rooms of Congress. 

    Those working on the ground know that measuring the effectiveness of the Act is not so black and white. The ESA is a critical safety net for wildlife, perhaps more important now than ever in the midst of a biodiversity loss crisis. Yet its protective measures can at times create disincentives for species conservation, and red tape limits the feasibility of voluntary conservation programs for many landowners. 

    Epanchin-Niell and Boyd found that incentives may be enhanced through increased availability of programmatic agreements, regulatory assurances, technical and financial assistance, and tailored protections for threatened species.

    A recent study published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment by Rebecca Epanchin-Niell and James Boyd applied a return-on-investment (ROI) perspective to explore better ways to target private-sector conservation engagement under the ESA and identify factors that affect incentives for participation in voluntary conservation. In their study, Epanchin-Niell and Boyd found that incentives may be enhanced through increased availability of programmatic agreements, regulatory assurances, technical and financial assistance, and tailored protections for threatened species. Not surprisingly, they also found ranching and forestry rank among the most prevalent land uses for landowners engaging proactively to provide biodiversity benefits through ESA programs, outpacing resource extraction and construction.

    Epanchin-Niell, Rebecca and James Boyd. "Private‐sector conservation under the US Endangered Species Act: a return‐on‐investment perspective." Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. https://esajournals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/fee.2193 

    Photo by mark broadhurst from Pexels

    Zach Bodhane is policy director for the Western Landowners Alliance, based in Washington, D.C.