|Department of the Interior Unveils Cooperative Conservation Legislation to Streamline and Facilitate Conservation Projects.|
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett today unveiled the Department’s new Cooperative Conservation legislation. The legislation, the “Cooperative Conservation Enhancement Act,” removes barriers to fostering additional cooperation among federal agencies, local and state governments, and the private sector and gives the Department greater opportunities to enter into partnerships with private individuals, companies, organizations and government entities in order to achieve conservation goals on a landscape scale.
“This hallmark legislation advances the Department’s vision of conservation partnerships,” Scarlett said. “Nature itself is unbounded. Cooperative conservation enables us to enhance, protect, and restore coasts, forests, wetlands, and prairies across a mosaic of lands through shared stewardship. With this Cooperative Conservation Enhancement Act, we will be able to remove the barriers and roadblocks that hinder conservation and deter citizen and community conservation,” said Scarlett.
“As a result of this legislation, conservation efforts will move beyond isolated projects, without connection or coordination,” Scarlett continued. “The Cooperative Conservation Enhancement Act makes everybody a partner and enhances the incentives for landowners and others to conserve lands, water and wildlife and to coordinate conservation activities across jurisdictions.”
"As a package, the Cooperative Conservation Enhancement Act will advance the ability of land management agencies to provide compatible services to the American people across Federal lands,” said Mark Rey, Under Secretary of Agriculture for Natural Resources and Environment. “The USDA is delighted to join the Department of the Interior in this effort to improve collaborative working relationships toward the conservation of our nation’s natural resources."
The legislation, submitted to Congress for its consideration, addresses comments and concerns brought up at the 2005 White House Conference on Cooperative Conservation and numerous listening sessions across the country. To address much of the bureaucratic red tape that has kept federal agencies from working closely with one another and even private citizens from trying to undertake conservation efforts on their own land, the legislation addresses four primary areas:
- Clarifying jurisdiction where previous legislation was vague or unclear, such as allowing for the Department to promote the existence of friends groups.
- Strengthening the Department’s authority in areas where that authority had previously been ad hoc, such as funding grant programs like Water 2025, which allows the Department to fund up to 50 percent of water conservation and efficiency projects.
- Codifying successful cooperative conservation methods, such as the joint Department of the Interior and Department of Agriculture Service First program and formally authorizing conservation grant programs.
- Removing barriers to cooperative conservation, such as modifications to the tax code so Department grants for conservation are not treated as income and allowing for closer partnership among conservation agencies.