Pacific Forest Trust's Wayburn discusses efforts to expand Land and Water Conservation Fund

Does the Obama administration's "all lands" approach to meeting endangered species goals work? During today's OnPoint, Laurie Wayburn, president of the Pacific Forest Trust, discusses the landowner incentive plans established by the administration. She also talks about efforts in Congress to guarantee permanent full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.


Monica Trauzzi Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. Joining me today is Laurie Wayburn, president of the Pacific Forest Trust. Laurie, thanks for coming back on the show.

Laurie Wayburn Thank you so much for having me here.

Monica Trauzzi Laurie, a big focus on owl recovery in conservation circles this week. Has the Obama administration shifted its strategy on meeting endangered species goals and does this all-lands approach sort of change the prospects?

Laurie Wayburn I think that the administration has taken some very pragmatic and interesting steps towards an all-lands perspective by looking at how endangered species don't understand property boundaries. You know, spotted owls just can't read the sign that says, "Don't come here, this is private land." By the same token, they're being very thoughtful in how they approach private lands and approaching them differently than how they approach public lands.

Monica Trauzzi So, specifically on owl recovery, what are we anticipating in the coming weeks?

Laurie Wayburn Well, in the plan that was released this morning there is a real recognition that the service needs to work outside of federal lands. One of the problems with the prior plan was that it did try to solve the spotted owl problem solely on federal lands. That was one of the reasons that it was appealed. So this time there's explicit recognition that there is habitat on private lands and I think their outreach to private landowners from an incentive perspective will be much more at the forefront of what they do. And I think they will be embracing a variety of new approaches to landowners.

Monica Trauzzi And the incentive part is a big piece of the puzzle. How do the landowner incentives help out both the agency, but also the landowners? How do they please sort of both sides of the puzzle?

Laurie Wayburn Well, landowners need operational certainty, particularly in a business like forestry, which is very long-term by its nature. The idea that you could manage forest on a year-by-year basis is just not possible. They need the certainty to know that they can operate in an area over a decade, two decades, three decades, and what the service is doing is working with landowners to provide that kind of certainty and a key tool that they use is a safe harbor agreement to encourage landowners to manage for owls. We've worked with them and had very direct and positive experience around that. In working with them on managed forest land that we operate for economic production we need that kind of certainty to know what kind of board foot yield we're going to have in years to come, where we can operate in years to come, how we plan our expenditures. And in the case that we have worked in as well, we've had a working forest conservation easement under the property. So in this kind of a situation, the landowner has received compensation for what they're doing that's good for the owl. They've received certainty in their operations over time. The Fish and Wildlife Service has certainty that the landowner is committed, because under that easement they're going to stay doing the right thing for the owl and the service also has a partner with the land trust, in this case our organization, providing them with annual information on their reports about how the owl is doing. So the service benefits, the owls benefit and the landowners benefit.

Monica Trauzzi So, more broadly speaking, how challenging is conservation right now as we go through a change in climate?

Laurie Wayburn That's a wonderful question and I get to give the answer it's so challenging that we don't know exactly what to do. I think there's another really thoughtful piece that the administration has brought forward, which is recognizing that climate change is here. We need to work at the landscape level. You can't just conserve one small place for any species or for any purpose. You need to recognize its context, so work in the landscape. And under AGO, America's Great Outdoors, they've really moved to that landscape level. That gives us the flexibility to work with whatever climate change brings.

Monica Trauzzi So, California has recently signaled that it's delaying its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions. I know that you have some question as to whether it's an actual delay or not. So talk a bit about what California has signaled it will do.

Laurie Wayburn Well, yesterday, in California, there was a legislative hearing on the implementation of A.B. 32, Global Warming Solutions Act, and the ARB affirmed that they are going to stay on schedule towards their targets. I think what was reported in the media as a delay is really a very pragmatic step on Air Resources Board's part to really stress test their systems, the reporting mechanisms, how their departments are working, how personnel are able to deal with workflow, fine tuning it and keeping on track for compliance in 2013.

Monica Trauzzi So, from where you sit, there's no real net impact on the environment as a result of this delay or change in strategy?

Laurie Wayburn There is no net impact in terms of any lesser gains that are made. Everyone will still have to meet their same targets. They'll still have the same true-up period, but I think the good thing is they'll have a year to work out kinks in the system.

Monica Trauzzi Let's talk about water. How is the West doing? There have been some pretty big conservation efforts in the West.

Laurie Wayburn Yes. Well, in terms of water, I think climate change has made that question all the more pointed. We're all looking at a reduction in snowpack in the Sierra Nevada and what that will do to water supplies. There are some interesting anomalies as well though. There are areas in the West that actually are accumulating more water and more snowpack, as a result of their geography, than they were before. And a key example of that is in the Mount Shasta area where the glaciers are expanding.

Monica Trauzzi Senators Bingaman and Baucus have reintroduced a bill that would guarantee permanent full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It has some strong Republican opposition. Why is it so important? How would this be critical to conservation efforts?

Laurie Wayburn Land and Water Conservation Fund was a visionary, absolutely visionary instrument at the time that it passed and full funding is so appropriate right now. There's an enormous opportunity in this next decade to make strides in land conservation that haven't been seen before. That's the upside to a downside economy, is that real estate values are much more approachable than they were before. And there was a real estate boom, there's a bubble, they're back down to more realistic levels. Having full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund enables the public trust to really be fulfilled at a scale it hasn't been before.

Monica Trauzzi OK, we'll end it right there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Laurie Wayburn Thank you.

Monica Trauzzi And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

[End of Audio]



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