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Balancing Business Interests and Endangered Species Protection

Is it possible to protect the environment and foster economic growth at the same time? Yes, according to these authors, who call for cooperative ecosystem management that goes beyond the win-lose negotiations that plague most environmental debates. They advocate a balanced approach that considers environmental and development interests simultaneously.

After an overview of the Endangered Species Act and the controversies surrounding its implementation, Hoffman et al. suggest the economic benefits that can be gained from protecting endangered species. For example, some pharmaceutical companies see nature as one large R&;D lab in which millions of years of evolution have developed new products for human use. Some plant materials and plant by-products are stronger and more lightweight than synthetic materials. Food and animal stocks rely on genetic diversity. Wetlands can serve as purification and detoxification systems. And an increasingly urban population is more interested in recreational use of land, rather than logging, mining, and grazing.

On the other hand, say the authors, economics should not be the sole criterion for determining the merit of endangered species protection. By moving away from an extractive view of natural resources, we shift toward stewardship; a shift in mind-set is crucial in enhancing economic competitiveness rather than diminishing it.

To improve the implementation of the ESA, the authors propose:

1. Promoting economic incentives by reforming tax codes, establishing special trust funds, swapping government land for more valuable private land, and charging land-use fees for hunting, fishing, hiking, and camping.

2. Reducing uncertainty for affected groups by establishing fixed time periods and streamlining ESA procedures. This involves generating more information about species and ecosystems, encouraging collaborative problem solving, and providing adequate resources for implementation.

3. Allocating adequate resources for implementation by ensuring funding for generating information and training personnel.

4. Involving stakeholders in decisions by forming advisory boards of affected, interested groups and ensuring negotiations through federal mandates.

5. Moving toward ecosystem management by making science-based decisions, involving stakeholders, articulating social values, and planning for the long term.

A broad look at all aspects of ecosystem management -- economic, environmental, and political -- will foster environmental protection along with economic growth.

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