Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tax Incentives

A tool to find common ground in the preservation of species appears to be working.

Tax incentives offered to help endangered species
By Bob Stallman and Fred Krupp -
Published 12:00 am PDT Sunday, May 27, 2007

The short but tempestuous history of endangered species conservation in America has seen its share of conflicts between rural landowners and environmentalists.

We're all familiar with the tales: ranchers and wolf advocates pitted against each other; logging communities concerned that protecting the spotted owl could harm their livelihoods; West Coast farmers, commercial fishermen and environmentalists disagreeing over whether scarce water should be used for crop irrigation or salmon. The battles seemed as inevitable as death and taxes -- until now.

Opposing sides in the endangered species debate may finally find common ground. Unlikely as it seems, that common ground is in the U.S. tax code. The two sides have started working together to create tax incentives that will benefit farmers and rare critters alike.

Farmers and environmentalists are now working together with lawmakers to develop significant new tax credits for conserving rare plants and animals. The new approach is a welcome change after years of battling to a draw over changes to the Endangered Species Act.

It's also a pragmatic strategy, since farmers and other private landowners -- who provide homes to more than two-thirds of all listed species on their lands -- are an obvious choice to care for the habitats that declining species need in order to recover. Until now, the problem has been that conserving habitat has offered few rewards to farmers and other landowners. Tax benefits might be just what we need to change that, and make caring for threatened species a benefit rather than a burden.