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This article addresses Recovery Implementation Programs (RIPs) for endangered species in the context of four western river basins where the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) is a key water supplier and manager. Rather than focus in detail on any particular program, this article addresses these RIPs as a group, representing an alternative approach to Endangered Species Act (ESA) compliance that has taken root in the western water context. Part I of this article provides context, outlining federal and state roles regarding water resources in the West. Part II explains the requirements of the ESA, focusing on federal agency obligations under section 7, and summarizing three situations where these requirements have applied to USBR project operations. Part III explains the structure, purposes, and elements of four RIPs; examines some key differences between these programs and the usual ESA approach in the water context; and notes the success of these programs in legal terms. Part IV attempts to answer three broad questions about the RIPs: why they have caught on in the western water context, whether they can actually recover species, and whether they are likely to become even more popular.

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Michigan Journal of Environmental and Administrative Law



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