For Immediate Release: February 28, 2007
Conservation Group Calls Endangered Species Tax Bill Historic:
With Minor Improvements, Baucus-Crapo Incentives Initiative
May Be Most Significant in Decades
WASHINGTON– The conservation group Center for Biological Diversity today praised legislation S. 700, introduced by a group of bipartisan senators, which would provide tax credits, tax deductions and income exclusions for various recovery-based actions on behalf of endangered species and their habitats.
“While we must ensure that this new tax program remains publicly accountable and that the administration does not abuse its discretion in picking incentive sites, this proposed legislation has the potential to revolutionize wildlife conservation on private lands and make the Endangered Species Act even more successful. This may be the first tangible sign that a fresh breeze is blowing on Capitol Hill,” said Bill Snape, senior counsel with the Center for Biological Diversity.
Since an earlier version of this bill was introduced late in the 109th Congress, a wide variety of conservation, scientific, sportsmen and related groups have worked with Senators Baucus (D-MT), Crapo (R-ID), Collins (R-ME), Lincoln (D-AR), Grassley (R-IA), and Lieberman (I-CT), among others, to further improve the bill. Specifically, conservation groups have sought to ensure that all tax benefits authorized under the bill would be explicitly tied to recovery objectives under the Endangered Species Act, and that the legislation would provide mechanisms to assess the success of the tax incentive program in a transparent fashion.
For the first time ever, financial awards will be available to landowners who actively seek to implement an endangered-species recovery plan. Further, under the bill, the Government Accountability Office will be requested to assess the overall efficacy of the tax-credit program; this will be important for fiscal accountability and should be expanded to the deductions and exclusions under the bill, particularly with regard to assessing global warming’s growing impact on domestic conservation measures.
“Although the authors of this bill have not yet ensured that habitat management and protection plans, as well as related final agency funding decisions and monitoring documents, will be unquestionably subject to the Freedom of Information Act – a problem that has arisen under some Farm Bill conservation programs – there is a commitment by some to see such non-controversial language added during the Senate Finance Committee consideration of the bill, which also must pass the House of Representatives,” explained Snape. “Barring weakening amendments, and the inclusion of the public’s right to government documents, we expect to support this bill.”
S. 700 addresses the conservation of species on the federal threatened, endangered and candidate lists. The latter are species that have been found to warrant addition to the threatened or endangered lists but have not been added due to funding constraints.
S. 700 establishes three types of habitat protection agreements or management plans subject to a tax credit: Qualified Perpetual Habitat Protection Agreements, which commit lands to permanent protection, Qualified 30 Year Habitat Protection Agreements, which are long-term but not permanent, and Qualified Habitat Protection Agreements, which are of variable, short-term duration. Each is required to be “not inconsistent with any approved [U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or National Marine Services] recovery plan” and designed to “restore or enhance habitat” or “reduce threats…through management of the habitat.” Each must “describe [the] management practices” to be undertaken, “provide a schedule of deadlines” for those practices, and monitor both the practices and “the status of qualified species.” Tax-reduction mechanisms are established to entice landowners to enter into one of the three agreements. The mechanisms vary in the level of enticement, primarily based on the duration of the agreement. If the annual funds are not allocated in any given year, they may be carried over to subsequent years.
Additionally, S. 700 clarifies and extends some existing conservation tax deduction programs: Recovery Plan Implementation Deductions do not require the same type of formal plans accompanying the three habitat protection agreements. They allow a landowner to deduct the cost of implementing actions identified in a federal recovery plan. Deductions are less valuable than credits because they only reduce the value of taxable income and do not reimburse actual costs. In some cases, existing laws already allow businesses to deduct these expenses. S. 700 also clarifies the relationship to endangered species recovery plans and extends the deduction to private citizens via
Exclusion of Cost-Share Program Payments. Here, landowners are authorized to deduct payments received from the federal government under the following cost-share programs: Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program, Landowner Incentive Program, State Wildlife Grants Program, and Private Stewardship Grants Program.
About the Center:
The Center for Biological Diversity is the continent’s leader in endangered species protection, utilizing science, law and public policy to advance the protection of wild plants and animals. Most recently, the Center has initiated a number of cutting-edge actions to combat global warming, and the significant impacts such warming is having upon humans and nature. For more information on the Center’s polar bear and penguin programs, its endangered species legal efforts, and recent scientific information on biodiversity, see www.biologicaldiversity.org.