Many consider Michael Bean, a senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund, the dean of endangered species protection in the United States. Others say he weakened the Endangered Species Act in the name of practicality when he helped craft the 1982 amendments that created the authority for Habitat Conservation Plans. He recently helped negotiate HCPs for several species of birds.
Bean: "If we are simply keeping people from doing bad things, and
not giving them a reason to do good things, then we are hurting the
chances for many species.
woodpecker is a good example. It needs open, longleaf pine forests
in the Southeast. Hardwoods have started choking the habitat while
landowners have twiddled their thumbs. A mixed forest won't support
the birds. Habitat Conservation Plans with "safe harbors'
provisions allow landowners to thin or burn the hardwoods without
retribution. It is solving a problem that the (Endangered Species)
Act hasn't been able to solve: How do we compel landowners to do
good things for endangered species?
"We need to
go even further, though, and create more incentives for landowners.
We need to sweeten the pot with tax incentives and cost-sharing to
carry out land management activities. The red-cockaded woodpecker
needs 60-100 acres of foraging lands. Those lands need to be
managed with prescribed burns, which cost $11-$12 an acre. That's a
lot of money for some people. Someone's got to pick up the tab.
"The mental construction for HCP was one
landowner wanting to build one house that could affect one species.
That's what people had in mind back in 1982. Now, HCPs are
dramatically different. The plans can encompass thousands of
landowners, whole counties the size of Rhode Island and dozens of
species. It's like trying to put a shoe on a foot that has grown;
it's not a good fit and that's why people are chafing
"Multispecies planning means that we may
lose some species on the margins while saving the vast majority.
That's a tough pill for our community to swallow: We want
large-scale planning and we want to protect every individual