Our answer: CCAAs and SAAAs are intended to incentivize landowners to restore, enhance or preserve the habitats and/or populations of candidate species or listed species in a way that generates a net natural benefit for those species. We agree that the slightly different definition of “net conservation benefit” proposed for CSFs is confusing and we address the definition in our final rule and guideline to that of our long-standing definition of “net conservation benefits” in the SHA context to eliminate this inconsistency and confusion. Our response is as follows: “In the event that the species and habitat are already properly managed for the benefit of the species, a net conservation benefit is achieved if the owner commits to continue exploiting the species for a certain period of time, including the management of future threats that are under the control of the landowner. With the hope of an increase in the population or an improvement in the quality of the habitat.¬†For this reason, ACCAs, designed to preserve habitats, could be allowed under the revised directive as long as landowners continue to manage their assets for the species and address likely future threats under their control. In addition, CSFs intended to “stabilise populations” could also be authorised, since, in order to stabilise a population, all threats to the species covered would have to be addressed by conservation measures within the CCAA. See also our reply below comment (5). The service ensures that the necessary monitoring provisions are included in the CCAA and the associated Survival Improvement Authorization. Monitoring is necessary to ensure the implementation of conservation measures set out in an agreement and authorisation and to learn more about the effectiveness of agreed conservation measures. In particular, where adaptive management principles are included in an agreement, monitoring is particularly useful to obtain the information needed to measure the effectiveness of the conservation programme and identify changes in conditions.

However, the burden and cost of surveillance can vary considerably from country to country depending on the circumstances. For many, monitoring can be carried out by the service or a public authority and can only include a brief site inspection and appropriate documentation. Monitoring programmes must be agreed upon prior to public review and commentation. The services undertake to provide maximum technical assistance for the development of acceptable monitoring programmes. These monitoring programs provide valuable information that services can use to assess the implementation and success of the program. The service finds that the benefits of conservation measures to be implemented by a landowner under a CCAA reasonably improve the status of the species covered and result in a net conservation benefit. In accordance with Section 7 of the ESA, the Service shall also ensure that the conservation measures and ongoing property management activities contained in a CCAA and the random inclusion permitted for such measures and activities under the Authorisation to Improve Survival Phase 10 (a) (1) (A) are not likely to compromise the listed species or species proposed for listing, and are not likely to destroy or alter the proposed or designated critical habitat. . . .

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