Doug Cooper: Landowners lose control with CCAAs
May 9, 2014
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service is pushing Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances for sage grouse. The only way to discribe this effort is to call it a good cop/bad cop scenario. The good folks at USF&W are giving private landowners a chance to make agreements with the agency before the bad folks at USF&W use the Endangered Species Act to wreck havoc on private property. In exchange for a permit which allows a landowner to incidentally harm or kill a sage grouse once the bird is listed, the landowner commits to carrying out conservation measures and allowing government agents access to their private land. It is sort of a get out of jail free card.
These CCAA's are only available before the bird is listed. Why our government would want to limit agreements that supposedly benefit the grouse to the time period just before listing is interesting. Evidently the carrot is thrown away once the stick is used. The government only offers a very small carrot while holding all the advantage in the negotiations. There is no way for the landowner to get one tidbit more than what our government has already predetermined. What they call negotiations, are really foregone conclusions.
Even the carrot that's offered is subject to USF&W interpretation. A CCAA will not protect you from being accused of intentionaly harming an endangered species. It will be the very same federal agency that gets to decide if a dead bird is part of the deal or the reason for an indictment. All those conservation measures you performed might not save you. At a minimum, a CCAA establishes a federal nexus to actions on private land, which is a little like scattering hay out to lure cows into a corral. One should be on the lookout for a bureaucrat wanting to swing the gate shut.
The Wyoming Stock Growers Association is being paid by the Fish and Wildlife Foundation to educate livestock producers about the CCAA process. While not exactly promoting the agreements, WSGA is not wasting the chance to make a little money from a crisis. It is certain that WSGA is not opposing the use of CCAA's.
Giving up a little freedom in exchange for security is an old bargain that rarely works out. I still hope the CCAAs work as advertised. Personally, I am having trouble thinking of an agreement where the federal government has kept its word. The Treaty of Fort Laramie is certainly one example of federal dishonesty one should keep in mind. That treaty promised Native Americans land for as long as the grass grows. In less than ten years the federal government had seized most of the land. The Marxist environmentalists we have today might not be as patient.