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Modernizing the Endangered Species Act

While well-intentioned, the Endangered Species must be modernized to ensure success where it matters most: on-the-ground and outside the courtroom.With a 3% recovery rate over 46 years, the ESA needs to be updated to better protect species, and to treat property owners, states and local stakeholders as partners rather than obstacles. ESA listings, de-listings, and critical habitat decisions impact our animals, our plants, our economy, our public health, our safety and our property rights. Defined recovery goals must be established to ensure species are removed from the list when desired population levels are met. Strengthening the Act should also include requiring actual science that is standardized, transparent and publicly available in order to make better policy decisions. Another key to improving recovery rates for plants and animals is empowering states and affected stakeholders to be part of the solution. The ESA can be modernized to more successfully assist species that are truly in danger.

The Center for Biological Diversity's (CBD) 2010 annual report states “where humans multiply extinction follows, and that the planet cannot continue to sustain both an exponentially growing human population and the healthy abundance of other species.” One biologist went so far as to defend his statement that “the collective needs of non-human species must take precedence over the needs and desires of humans.” Another stated that “humanity threatens to turn the earth into a planet of weeds.” In 2009, CBD’s Executive Director stated: “When we stop the same timber sale three or four times running, the timber planners want to tear their hair out. They feel like their careers are being mocked and destroyed – and they are. Psychological warfare is a very underappreciated aspect of environmental campaigning.”

Americans who live near, work on and enjoy our lands, waters and wildlife show a tremendous commitment to conservation that is too often undermined and forgotten by the ESA’s litigation-driven model.Western Caucus Members have put forth substantive solutions to curb abuse, protect the interests of local communities and strengthen the original intent of the ESA.




Endangered Species Act Modernization Member & Stakeholder Roundtable, Press Opportunity, and Draft Legislation Rollout

  • At this important event, Western Caucus Members, Karen Budd-Falen from the Department of the Interior, and industry stakeholders discussed the Endangered Species Act generally and recent ESA regulations implemented by the Department of the Interior, shared personal stories and examples that illustrated the need to modernize the ESA, and some participants provided comments on a draft legislative package unveiled by the Caucus.
  • The draft legislative package contains multiple draft bills and concepts that will modernize the ESA.
  • A similar package introduced last Congress received the endorsement of 170+ organizations throughout the country.




Participants at the Roundtable:

  • Opening Statement of Congressional Western Caucus Chairman Paul A. Gosar, D.D.S. (AZ-04)

  • Representatives Andy Biggs (AZ-05), Rob Bishop (UT-01), Ken Calvert (CA-42), Russ Fulcher (ID-01), Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Doug Lambon (CO-05), Debbie Lesko (AZ-08), Roger Marshall (KS-01), Jason Smith (MO-08), Pete Stauber (MN-08), Scott Tipton (CO-03), Bruce Westerman (AR-04), and Don Young (AK-At Large).

  • Department of the Interior Deputy Solicitor for Fish, Wildlife and Parks, Karen Budd-Falen.

    Stakeholders

  • Courtney Briggs, National Association of Home Builders, Federal Legislative Director
  • Sandra Mitchell, Idaho State Snowmobiler Association Public Lands Director and Idaho Recreation Council  Executive Director
  • Sam McDonald, National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association, Legislative Affairs Director
  • Caren Cowan, New Mexico Cattle Growers’ Association, New Mexico Wool Growers, Inc., Executive Director
  • Mallori Miller, Independent Petroleum Association of America, Senior Director of Government Relations
  • Stef Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, President
  • Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance, President
  • Pat O'Toole, Family Farm Alliance, President
  • Jamie Johansson, California Farm Bureau Federation, President
  • Ian Lyle, National Water Resources Association, Executive Vice President
  • Jonathan Wood, Senior Attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation & Research Fellow, Property & Environment Research Center
  • Robert Henneke, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Center for the American Future, General Counsel and Litigation Director
  • Daren Bakst, The Heritage Foundation, Senior Research Fellow
  • Jake Tyner, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Manager & Associate Policy Counsel
  • Corry Marshall, American Public Power Association, Senior Director
  • Scott Jones, Vice President of United Snowmobile Alliance, Executive Director of Colorado Snowmobile Association, Authorized Representative of the Off-Road Business Association
  • Ryan Yates, American Farm Bureau Federation, Director of Congressional Relations
  • Leslie James, Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, Executive Director
  • Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute, Director, Center for Energy and Environment
  • Chris Udall, Agribusiness and Water Council of Arizona, Executive Director
  • Dan Keppen, Family Farm Alliance, Executive Director
  • Emily Coyner and Austin Bone, National Stone Sand and Gravel Association, Senior Director, Environmental Policy (Conyer) Director of Government Affairs (Boone)
  • Jordan Smith, National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, Executive Director
  • Rick Manning, Americans for Limited Government, President
  • Dr. Don Parker, National Cotton Council, Manager of Integrated Pest Management
  • Steve Trussell, Arizona Rock Products Association and the Arizona Mining Association, Executive Director
  • Urban Eberhart, Kittitas Reclamation District, Secretary/Manager
  • Matt Chase, National Association of Counties, Executive Director
  • Bob Lynch, Robert S. Lynch & Associates, Phoenix Attorney
  • Bill Simmons, Big Game Forever, Managing Director, Dutko Government Relations
  • Alan Glen, Smith Robertson, LLP, Partner


Western Caucus Discussion Draft ESA Modernization Package for the 116th Congress
(Many of these bills are still be developed/modified and bill text is only meant for discussion).

1. The LIST Act, Rep. Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large) This legislation authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to de-list species when he receives objective, measurable scientific study demonstrating a species is recovered. Such measures will also facilitate states, academic researchers and outside groups in monitoring species recovery and notifying USFWS when recovery has occurred. Often, newly-discovered or poorly-understood species receive protections even though they later turn out to be ecologically abundant. This bill creates a straightforward mechanism for USFWS to promptly act on the information they receive that demonstrates a species was wrongfully listed in this manner, rather than letting the problem gather dust on the bureaucratic backburner as often happens now. Finally, the bill allows for those who are demonstrated in a civil lawsuit to have intentionally submitted false or fraudulent species data in order to cause a species listing to be prevented from submitting petitions for ten years. Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.


2.
The EMPOWERS Act, Rep. Jason Smith (MO-08). The Ensuring Meaningful Petition Outreach While Enhancing Rights of States Act, also known as the EMPOWERS Act, aims to improve consultation between state and federal decision makers by 1) Ensuring that agencies making decisions about Endangered Species Act listings consult States before listing species, and; 2) Requiring decision-making agencies to provide an explanation when their decisions diverge from the findings or advice of States. An identical bill passed the Resources Committee during the 115th Congress.
Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.

3. The PETITION Act, Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04).
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is instructed by law to issue decisions on petitions within specific timeframes established in the Act. When they miss those timelines, they are vulnerable to lawsuits by petitioners. A crucial fact to note: Anyone can submit any number of petitions containing any amount of information – or misinformation. This bill reforms that petition process, allowing the Secretary to declare a ‘petition backlog’ when too many frivolous petitions stack up and USFWS becomes vulnerable to lawsuit. All necessary protections for legitimate species listing requests which contain sufficient, duly-collected scientific information remain in place under this bill. However, petitions designed to jam the system and secure unwarranted species listings are automatically discharged during a backlog. The legislation allows Congress to step in and prevent illegitimate mass-listings of unqualified, understudied species as well as ensure more resources go to species that are actually threatened and endangered. Click here to see the text of the bill that passed the Resources Committee during the 115th Congress. 

4. The LAMP Act, Rep. Don Young
(AK-At Large). Local governments, tribes and states have been successful players in species conservation and recovery since passage of the ESA. Despite their strong track record, the Act itself contains a relatively weak framework for facilitating interaction amongst these players and federal species conservation-responsible agencies. The LAMP Act permits the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative management agreements with states, local governments, tribes and other non-federal persons in order to better manage species and improve habitat conservation. The bill empowers states with robust species conservation programs already in place to take the lead in managing and preserving such species when meeting certain qualifying conditions. Under the LAMP Act, the Secretary will finally have the authority to collaborate with local stakeholders to decide how best to make use of their talents, interest and expertise for the benefit of species recovery and habitat preservation. Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.

5. The WHOLE Act,
Rep. Dan Newhouse (WA-04). This simple bill ensures that the totality of conservation measures underway will be considered before taking federal actions that impact species.  The WHOLE Act reduces costs associated with consultation, allowing important projects to move forward while ensuring these actions don’t negatively impact species, resulting in more private contributions that help recover endangered species in the process. In the 115th Congress, the House passed a nearly identical amendment (H.AMDT.631) with unanimous consent to the Farm Bill. Unfortunately, current practices do not allow conservation measures that take place outside of designated critical habitat to count in relation to federal actions. This arbitrary interpretation results in less conservation efforts for species and stifles private investment that would otherwise be encouraged if the totality of habitat conservation measures underway were allowed to be considered. Click here to see the text of the bill that passed the Resources Committee during the 115th Congress.

6. The Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness ActRep. McClintock (CA-04).
The bill requires data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, allowing the American people to actually see what data is being used to make key listing decisions. The bill also requires the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to any ESA listing decisions. This legislation requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online: 1) funds expended to respond to ESA lawsuits; 2) the number of employees dedicated to litigation; and 3) attorney’s fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements. Finally, this bill prioritizes resources towards species protection by placing reasonable caps on attorney’s fees and making the ESA consistent with the Equal Access to Justice Act which caps the hourly rate for prevailing attorney fees at $125 per hour. A nearly identical bill passed the Resources Committee during the 115th Congress. Click here to see the text of a nearly identical bill that passed the Resources Committee during the 115th Congress.

7. H.R. 548, the Fish Act, Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42).
The legislation would consolidate the management and regulation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) within the Fish and Wildlife Service. The ESA is currently administered by FWS and the Commerce Department's National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). The FWS has primary responsibility for terrestrial and freshwater organisms, while the responsibilities of NMFS are mainly marine wildlife such as whales and anadromons fish, such as salmon.  The FISH Act would transfer all of the NMFS' ESA responsibilities to the FWS. Making this change will ensure uniformity in enforcement of ESA cases across the biological spectrum. Click here to see the text of the bill.

8. Listing Reform Act, Rep. Rep Pete Olson (TX-22). This legislation allows for the costs and significant economic effects associated with an ESA listing or designation of critical habitat to be analyzed and reported. This was bill passed the House Committee on Natural Resources during the 115th Congress. Click here to see Rep. Olson testimony on this bill. Click here to see the draft text of the bill. Click here to see a one page summary.

9. H.R. 30, the SAVES Act, Rep. Louie Gohmert (TX-01). This legislation would effectively eliminate the duplicative requirement for CBW permits for nonnative species in the United States. Ease of transfer of species across State lines would enhance conservation and welfare of the species by allowing owners, breeders, and conservationists to ensure robust, and genetically diverse populations continue to exist in the United States. This bill would not increase the likelihood of international wildlife trafficking as such matters are regulated under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, an international agreement between 183 member nations that protects endangered nonnative species from the perils of international wildlife trafficking. Click here to see the text of the bill.

10. Section 4d Improvement Act. This bill would codify into federal law an August 27, 2019, rule from DOI regarding Section 4(d). The rule and bill rescind the blanket 4(d) rule, which applied all ESA protections in cases where FWS has not developed a species-specific 4(d) rule for a threatened species. This goes against the intent of the ESA, as threatened species are only supposed to be protected by species specific 4(d) rules and Congress never intended for threatened and endangered species to be treated exactly the same. For newly-listed threatened species under the rule, FWS will promulgate a species-specific rule establishing a take prohibition or protection if necessary. If a species-specific rule is not published, take of a newly listed threatened species after September 26, 2019, is authorized. These procedures are consistent with NMFS’ longstanding practices that reduce regulatory burdens on property owners and allow more resources to go to truly threatened species. In 2016, the Department of the Interior (DOI) finalized the listing of the Kentucky arrow darter with a species-specific 4(d) rule that exempted take in exchange for in-stream habitat enhancement projects, maintenance of stream crossings, bridge and culvert replacements, and other activities that benefit the species. Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.

11. Section 7 Improved Consultation Act. This bill would codify into federal law a different August 27, 2019, rule from DOI regarding section 7 of the ESA. Current confusion over scope and jurisdiction cause bureaucratic delays for critical infrastructure and other important projects. The rule and bill clarify the process for consultations while increasing their efficiency. The rule and bill also establish important definitions for “consequences”, “destruction or adverse modification,” “effects of the action,” “reasonably certain to occur,” and “environmental baseline.” Under the rule and bill, certain consultations are no longer necessary for actions that the Services lack jurisdiction and control over, consistent with the Supreme Court's opinion in National Ass'n of Home Builders v. Defenders of Wildlife. This case found it was reasonable for the Services to narrow section 7 consultations on actions over which the they have no discretionary involvement or control. Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.

12. Listing and Habitat Improvement Act. This bill would codify into federal law another August 27, 2019, rule from DOI regarding listing species and designating critical habitat under the ESA. The rule and this legislation aim to improve predictability and provide certainty for species listings and critical habitat designations. The rule and bill provide clarity by (1) requiring the Secretary to identify with specificity the individual elements of habitat that a species requires before making a designation; (2) requiring habitat designations to be actual habitat essential for the conservation of the species; and (3) requiring the Secretary to first exhaust all occupied areas for designations before targeting unoccupied areas. In a recent U.S. Supreme Court case, the court found in an 8-0 opinion that the Service overreached when it designated 1,500 acres of critical habitat on private land for the Dusty Gopher Frog, even though the frog had no presence on this land and couldn't survive there. The rule and bill also make clear that the Services have the authority to estimate the true economic impacts associated with listing decisions. The rule and bill define the term “foreseeable future” for threatened species listings, reducing speculation and use of bad science in the process. This new rule and bill also level the playing field and apply the same standards for listing and delisting species, ensuring it isn't harder to delist a species than it is to list a species, assuming the species has been recovered. Click here to see the discussion draft text of the bill.

13. Property Rights Protection Act, Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-05). One of the core principals of the Western Caucus is the protection of private property rights. This legislation protects private property rights by not allowing privately-owned land to be designated critical habitat, unless the owner of the land gives written consent or the Secretary of the Interior certifies there is endangerment of extinction of the species without such designation. If the private land in question is designated critical habitat after such a finding by the Secretary, the Secretary shall pay the land owner 150 percent of the fair market value of the land. The provisions in this bill will help ensure that if a land owner's property rights are breached due to the need to protect an endangered species, they are properly compensated under a takings claim and the Fifth Amendment. The bill also protects private water rights, prevents trespassing on private property, and allows land owners to defend their property and loved ones from violent species that are a recurring threat to their life and property. Click here to see the discussion draft text.

14. Increasing Access and Multiple Use Act, Rep. Liz Cheney (WY-At Large).
Throughout our country’s history, federal lands have been available for a variety of activities, from recreation and grazing to mining, energy development and forestry. The Federal Land Policy and Management Act (FLPMA) requires “multiple use” on public lands and states that the resources and uses on federal land must occur through a balanced combination that best meets the needs of the American people. Essentially, the multiple use mandate requires campers, hikers, sportsmen, and other recreational enthusiasts to benefit from the same lands utilized by producers including ranchers, farmers, miners, sawmills and energy producers. Ensuring multiple use of public lands is critical to the environmental and economic health of the West. This legislation will provide certainty for permit and lease holders on public lands. The bill ensures no net loss due to new critical habitat designations or listings of species under the ESA and ensures their mere presence is not the sole reason for preventing multiple use activities. The bill will result in new opportunities for recreation hunting and fishing on federal lands. This legislation also explicitly protects recreational fishing and hunting access as well off-road vehicle and other public access. Under the bill, vacant grazing allotments would also be made available to grazing permit holders if their permit is made unusable because of certain circumstances, such as catastrophic wildlife. Also included in this legislation are provisions to ensure grazing permittees are adequately compensated for livestock depredation caused by reintroduced species. Click here to see the discussion draft text. 

15. Improving Species Health Through Active Management Act. This bill looks to improve the recovery of species through preventive measures and active management that reduces the risk of catastrophic wildfires. Included in this legislation are several measures that have passed the House in the past, such as active forest management proposals from last year's House passed Farm Bill as well as expanding existing authorities already in law. Instead of reactively fighting wildfires, this bill allows us to protect our communities and our invaluable national forests. The bill expands provisions in the Lake Tahoe Restoration to apply in other parts of the country given the effectiveness of these provisions in improving overall forest health in the Basin. The provisions in this bill will improve forest health and help prevent catastrophic wildfires, improving the health of species and their habitat in the process. The bill includes important provisions that would help prevent the devastation and loss of life that we saw in the Camp and Carr Fires. The Carr Fire in Northern California claimed eight lives and destroyed more than 1,600 structures. The Camp Fire was the costliest disaster in the world last year, costing more than $12.5 billion in insured losses, claiming 88 lives and destroying nearly 19,000 structures, roughly 14,000 of which were homes. These two fires destroyed 8,900 homes and 329 businesses costing more than $840 million in insured losses. Click here to see the discussion draft text. 

16. Critical Habitat Improvement Act. This legislation aims to make several changes to the way critical habitat is designated for endangered and threatened species. The legislation requires the Secretary to make any designation of critical habitat of an endangered or threatened species when the species is listed or not later than one year after final approval of a recovery plan, whichever is earlier. The Secretary is also required to consult with state and local governments as the legislation sets out specific parameters to analyze the possible economic impacts associated with a critical habitat designation. This legislation requires publication of maps and specific coordinates associated with critical habitat listings in order to increase transparency. Finally, the bill nullifies three rules and policies from the previous administration that significantly expanded the Services' abilities to further encroach on private landowners and designate massive swaths of critical habitat without justification. Click here to see the discussion draft text. 

17. Critical Infrastructure Act, Rep. Chris Stewart (UT-02).
This legislation is aimed at protecting the life blood of American economic and national security, our nation's critical infrastructure. Included in this legislation is language from the STORAGE Act, which was introduced during the 115th Congress, that would limit critical habitat designations on man-made water storage facilities and artificial water delivery systems. Such designations can have significant consequences as we saw with the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher on the Roosevelt Dam in Arizona. Such actions exacerbate drought conditions and reduce important water supplies that local communities rely on for their survival. The bill also includes the Environmental Compliance Cost Transparency Act, bipartisan legislation which requires federal agencies active in the wholesale power business to disclose the costs associated with environmental compliance to their customers. Since 1983, more than $534 million dollars associated with environmental compliance and programs have been paid by Colorado River Storage Project Act power customers. For Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) customers, these costs are even more significant, accounting for 30 percent of BPA power costs and more than $15 billion since 1980. The bill would authorize a categorical exclusion to allow for transmission pole and power line access in order to provide water and power to rural communities. This provision stems from a rural electric cooperative in Utah having to spend over $150,000 to airlift transmission poles over federal lands designated prairie dogs, despite private landowners being able to obtain permits to kill the same prairie dogs on nearby lands. A categorical exclusion is also made for species presence in project buffer zones, in order to prevent frivolous red tape from preventing the construction of critical infrastructure.
This provision stems from a rural electric cooperative in Utah that sought to construct a power line primarily on private and state-owned lands and completed an extensive NEPA process, but was ordered to stop construction when it was determined that two acres of Utah Prairie Dog habitat were within a 350-foot buffer of the project’s right-of-way. This resulted in a nine-month delay in order for the FWS to conduct a survey and the work was only re-started after the electric co-op agreed to pay $20,000 to the National Wildlife Defense Fund and hire a biologist to monitor the impacts of the project on prairie dogs.
Click here to see the discussion draft text. 

18. American Sovereignty and Species Protection Act, Rep. Rep Andy Biggs (AZ-05).
This bill seeks to focus scarce resources on land and species under U.S. jurisdiction. There are approximately 600 foreign species listed on the United States threatened or endangered species list. These include species in China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. The U.S. has no jurisdiction over these species. Once a foreign species is listed, the ESA allows the federal government to squander taxpayer money buying “land or water or interests therein” in foreign countries (16 U.S.C. § 1537.) However, once the land is bought, no one is quite sure who is responsible for managing the land and how much money this costs American taxpayers. One of the reasons typically used to justify listing foreign species under the ESA is stop the foreign import of listed species into the U.S., even if those species were legally hunted in the country from which they are being exported. A listing doesn't actually stop such imports, as an endangered Goliath Frog from West Africa was previously being sold on eBay for $150.00.     

19. Encouraging Voluntary Conservation Activities Through Regulatory Certainty Act, Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03).
Despite the inflamed rhetoric of partisans on either side, robust, effective species conservation can readily coexist with project permitting and economic development. The bill seeks to allow States, Indian Tribes, units of local government, landowners, and other stakeholders to carryout and participate in agreements in order to improve species recovery, treat these participants as partners rather than criminals, and provide significant voluntary conservation activities for species that will improve recovery. Testimony from Brian Seasholes in 2015 revealed that "shoot, shovel and shut-up" is a practice utilized by some landowners when they discover a species out of fear what a listing of that species will do to their property value and land use if that species is listed. Days before the San Diego Mesa Mint was listed, a developer was planning to build 1,429 homes. To prevent the land the homes would be built on from being locked up, he bulldozed all the plants. Such actions are bad for species and bad for landowners. The bill seeks to codify the use of Voluntary Wildlife Conservation Agreements, Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances (CCAA's) and Safe Harbor Agreements (SHA's) in order to bring local stakeholders to the table. CCAA's and SHA's are two existing programs established by federal agency handbooks that encourage voluntary species conservation and investment in exchange for certainty. This simple bill aims to reward the good behavior of public and private entities that faithfully uphold their agreements in order to help recover listed species. The bill text is essentially the same as the bill text of Title II in the Discussion Draft found here.



Case Studies on ESA Failure

  • In 2012, the potential listing of the Dunes Sagebrush Lizard threatened to shut down significant oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin of West Texas. In a rare decision, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service decided not to list the lizard because of existing voluntary conservation plans, a decision subsequently upheld by a federal court.

  • A rural electric cooperative in Utah had to spend over $150,000 to airlift transmission poles over federal lands designated for prairie dogs, despite private landowners being able to obtain permits to kill the same prairie dogs on nearby lands.

  • Williamson County, Texas is currently battling the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service on constitutional grounds over the listing of the Bone Cave harvestman. This tiny eyeless arachnid is stalling development of crucial infrastructure in the county and its taking could lead to $50,000 in fines and one year in prison.

  • Of the 52 known mussel species that exist in Texas, 15 are listed as threatened at the state level. Six of these 15 are candidate species under consideration for federal ESA listing. Listing of the mussels would lead to federal oversight of their aquatic habitats, most likely mandating augmented environmental flows in many streams and rivers in Central Texas. Dedicating this water for habitat conservation would limit water supply available for human use.

  • In California, the same attorneys who forced the injunction of the West Virginia wind project are attempting to prevent the City of San Francisco from engaging in flood control efforts at a municipal golf course, supposedly because flood control harms the California Reg-Legged Frog.

  • A rural public utility district in Washington sought to construct a wind project on state-owned land and spent $4 million over five years in consultation with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to develop an environmental assessment of the potential impacts on the ESA-listed marbled murrelet, purchasing over 260 acres of land as habitat for the bird. Though the analyses determined the project would have negligible impact on endangered species, the utility withdrew from the project when the USFWS insisted on additional peer review and $10 million as additional habitat and other requirements.

  • The history of the Spotted Owl in the Northwest is a poster child for ESA litigation crippling forest management, costing jobs, and harming communities and species habitat. More than 30 timber sales by the Forest Service and the BLM in Washington and Oregon were blocked shortly after the Northwest Forest Plan became law due to management of the spotted owl. Shortly following the listing, the federal government, through the Clinton Administration’s Northwest Forest Plan, administratively withdrew nearly 24 million acres of federal land – resulting in no access to nearly 85% of the area available for timber harvest – from active management and restricted harvest levels. As a result, over 400 lumber mills have closed across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, and California, terminating over 35,000 direct jobs and countless more indirect jobs.

  • In 1998, the construction of an elementary school in San Diego was delayed by ESA litigation and FWS mitigation requirements to protect a two-inch shrimp. Construction is finally slated to go forward as a result of an agreement by the school district to spend $5 million in ESA mitigation expenses, all of which will be passed on to local citizens.

  • In Montana, a mining project that had gone through environmental reviews and received all required permits in 1993 is being required to spend millions of dollars to update environmental impact statements; and the mining company has been told by the USFWS it will need to pay for contractors to help them complete a biological opinion related to grizzly bears, without any assurance the project will be approved.

  • Another egregious example is the USFWS’s handling of the endangered Desert Tortoise, some of which were housed in a $1 million conservation center in Nevada. Though the tortoise has been ESA-listed since 1990, when available funds to operate the conservation reserve center decreased, the USFWS began plans to actually kill hundreds of tortoises rather than finding other protection methods. “It's the lesser of two evils, but it's still evil," said the FWS program recovery coordinator.

  • A rural electric cooperative in Utah sought to construct a power line primarily on private and state-owned lands completed an extensive NEPA process, but was ordered to stop construction when it was determined that two acres of Utah Prairie Dog habitat were within a 350-foot buffer of the project’s right-of-way. This resulted in a nine-month delay in order for the FWS to conduct a survey and the work was only re-started after the electric co-op agreed to pay $20,000 to the National Wildlife Defense Fund and hire a biologist to monitor the impacts of the project on prairie dogs.


115th Congress ESA Modernization Efforts

In the 115th Congress, the Congressional Western Caucus spearheaded a bipartisan legislative package comprised of 9 bills to modernize the Endangered Species Act. This package was supported by more than 170 stakeholders and organizations throughout the country. All 9 of these bills received a legislative hearing and 4 of the bills passed the House Committee on Natural Resources.

                    


On 9/27/18, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed H.R. 3608, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act,” H.R. 6346 “The WHOLE Act,” H.R. 6345 “The EMPOWERS Act,” and H.R. 6355 “The PETITION Act” through a full committee markup. Click here for more information on the Committee markup.

                     


On 9/26/18, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a legislative hearing on all 9 of the Western Caucus ESA Modernization bills from the 115th Congress.  The bills that received a hearing include:

  • H.R. 6356 “The LIST Act” introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-05) requires the delisting of species when objective, measurable scientific information demonstrates that a species is recovered. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6345 “The EMPOWERS Act” introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-02) provides for greater involvement of State and local governments with regard to ESA petitions and decisions to list species. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6344 “The LOCAL Act” introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03) encourages voluntary conservation efforts and provide incentives for the preservation and recovery of imperiled species. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6355 “The PETITION Act” by Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04) addresses the longstanding issue of petition backlogs, which drain limited federal resources and result in unnecessary lawsuits. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6364 “The LAMP Act” introduced by Rep. Don Young (AK-At Large) increases state and local involvement in species management through cooperative agreements. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6360 “The PREDICTS Act” introduced by Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-05) would provide for greater certainty and improved planning for incidental take permit holders and landowners entering into agreements to improve the status and recovery of at-risk and listed species.Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6346 “The WHOLE Act”introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04) would ensure that all species protections and conservation measures are considered in their totality when determining the likelihood of destruction or adverse modification of critical habitat. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 6354 “The STORAGE Act” introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04) would ensure that certain areas impacted by operations of water storage and similar facilities are not designated as critical habitat. Hearing Memo
  • H.R. 3608, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act” introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock (CA-04)requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online: 1) funds expended to respond to ESA lawsuits; 2) the number of employees dedicated to litigation; and 3) attorney’s fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements. The bill also requires the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to any ESA listing decisions and require that the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government include data provided by affected states, tribes, and local governments. Finally, this bill prioritizes resources towards species protection by placing reasonable caps on attorney’s fees.
             

Western Caucus Bipartisan ESA Modernization Package in the 115th Congress


The nine bills featured in the bipartisan Western Caucus legislative package in the 115th Congress include:

1.     H.R. 6356, the LIST Act, introduced by Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-05). The LIST Act makes a number of improvements to help bring the ESA up-to-date. Notably, this legislation authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to de-list species when he receives objective, measurable scientific study demonstrating a species is recovered. Such measures will also facilitate states, academic researchers and outside groups in monitoring species recovery and notifying USFWS when recovery has occurred. Often, newly-discovered or poorly-understood species receive protections even though they later turn out to be ecologically abundant. This bill creates a straightforward mechanism for USFWS to promptly act on information they receive that demonstrates a species was wrongfully listed in this manner, rather than letting the problem gather dust on the bureaucratic backburner as often happens now. Finally, the bill allows for those who are demonstrated in a civil lawsuit to have intentionally submitted false or fraudulent species data in order to cause a species listing to be prevented from submitting petitions for ten years. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo. 
a.       Cosponsors (30): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Collins (GA-09), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gianforte (MT-At Large), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Guthrie (KY-02), Hunter (CA-50), Latta (OH-05), Lesko (AZ-08), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Mullin (OK-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Olson (TX-22), Pearce (NM-02), Perry (PA-04), Smith (MO-08), Smith (TX-21), Stewart (UT-02), Thompson (PA-05).
b.       Endorsement in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements: Oregon Outdoor Council.

           


2.      H.R. 6345, the EMPOWERS Act, introduced by Rep. Steve Pearce (NM-02). While a pipeline under the ESA exists for States to provide input, the fact that the Act itself imposes no special requirement upon decision-makers to consult States has become, with the passage of time, a glaring omission. Such consultation requirements will ensure that no privileged or State-specific information slips through the cracks when listing decisions are made. The Ensuring Meaningful Petition Outreach While Enhancing Rights of States Act, also known as the EMPOWERS Act, aims to improve such consultation by 1) Ensuring that agencies making decisions about Endangered Species Act listings consult States before so doing, and; 2) Requiring decision-making agencies to provide explanation when their decisions diverge from the findings or advice of States. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (31): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Buck (CA-04), Collins (GA-09), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gianforte (MT-At Large), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Guthrie (KY-02), Hunter (CA-50), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Meadows (NC-11), Mooney (WV-02), Mullin (OK-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Perry (PA-04), Rokita (IN-04), Schweikert (AZ-06), Smith (MO-08), Smith (TX-21), Stewart (UT-02), Thompson (PA-05).
b.       Endorsement in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements: Oregon Outdoor Council.

            


3.      H.R. 6344, the bipartisan LOCAL Act, introduced by Rep. Scott Tipton (CO-03). Species conservation experts and policy powerhouses alike have recommended for decades that the Endangered Species Act be amended in order to codify incentives and set clear statutory channels for recognizing such voluntary efforts. Since species conservation is the ultimate aim of the Endangered Species Act, and a greater sum total of voluntary, successful species conservation efforts incontrovertibly aid that aim, it is nothing more than common sense that such channels facilitating and encouraging voluntary conservation be a part of the Act. This legislation would do just that, codifying voluntary conservation programs like Species Recovery Agreements (SRAs) and Habitat Reserve Agreements (HRAs). Each of these kinds of agreements between the Secretary and other entities have distinct applications and structures and are most successful at facilitating species recovery under different circumstances, but what they have in common is the increased leverage and more diverse toolkit they provide the Secretary in making decisions for the best interests of an endangered species. The second component of this bill sets up another set of new incentives and opportunities for voluntary conservation by establishing a private party conservation grants program, and a habitat conservation planning loan program for state and local governments. These programs will save taxpayer money while boosting conservation. Click here to see the text of the bill.  Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.      Cosponsors (24): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gianforte (MT- At Large), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Hunter (CA-50), LaMalfa (CA-01), Latta (OH-05) Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), Mooney (WV-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Rokita (IN-04), Schrader (OR-05), Stewart (UT-02), Glenn Thompson (PA-05), Walden (OR-02).

            



4.     
H.R. 6355, the PETITION Act, introduced by Rep. Bruce Westerman (AR-04). The United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is instructed by law to issue decisions on petitions within specific timeframes established in the Act. When they miss those timelines, they are vulnerable to lawsuits by petitioners. A final, crucial fact to note: Anyone can submit any number of petitions containing any amount of information – or misinformation. This bill reforms that petition process, allowing the Secretary to declare a ‘petition backlog’ when too many frivolous petitions stack up and USFWS becomes vulnerable to lawsuit. All necessary protections for legitimate species listing requests which contain sufficient, duly-collected scientific information remain in place under this bill. However, petitions designed to jam the system and secure unwarranted species listings are automatically discharged during a backlog. The legislation allows Congress to step in and prevent illegitimate mass-listings of unqualified, understudied species as well as ensure more resources go to species that are actually threatened and endangered. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (23): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Collins (GA-09), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gohmert (TX-01), Gosar (AZ-04), Guthrie (KY-02)*, Hunter (CA-50)*, Latta (OH-05), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01)*, McClintock (CA-04), Mooney (WV-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Rokita (IN-04), Smith (MO-08), Stewart (UT-02).
b.       Endorsement in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements: Oregon Outdoor Council.

            


5.     H.R. 6364, the LAMP Act, introduced by Rep. Don Young (AK-At Large). Local governments, tribes and states have been successful players in species conservation and recovery since passage of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. Despite their strong track record, the Act itself contains a relatively weak framework for facilitating interaction amongst these players and federal species conservation-responsible agencies. The LAMP Act permits the Secretary of the Interior to enter into cooperative management agreements with states local governments, tribes and other non-federal persons in order to better manage species and improve habitat conservation. The bill also empowers states with robust species conservation programs already in place to take the lead in managing and preserving such species when meeting certain qualifying conditions. Under the LAMP Act, the Secretary will finally have the authority to collaborate with local stakeholders to decide how best to make use of their talents, interest and expertise for the benefit of species recovery and habitat preservation. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (27): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Cramer (ND), Duncan (SC-03), Emmer (MN-06), Estes (KS-4), Gianforte (MT-At Large), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Guthrie (KY-02), Hunter (CA-50), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Meadows (NC-11), Mooney (WV-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Pearce (NM-02), Rokita (IN-04), Smith (TX-21), Stewart (UT-02), Thompson (PA-05).
b.       Endorsement in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements: Colorado Outfitters Association and the Oregon Outdoor Council.

           



6.      H.R. 6360, the PREDICTS Act, introduced by Rep. Ralph Norman (SC-05). Despite the inflamed rhetoric of partisans on either side, robust, effective species conservation can readily coexist with project permitting and economic development. Perhaps no better example of this exists than the one provided with Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) developed and implemented under the Endangered Species Act. HCPs are comprehensive planning documents created collaboratively between Fish and Wildlife or National Marine Fisheries and a person, government or corporation pursuing permitting and development for a project which is likely to result in listed species takings. To be approved, these plans normally require incidental take permit applicants to identify all anticipatable ways in which a project and its operations may result in species takings, and successfully account for them through mitigation, remediation and compensation. While HCPs are relatively well known, Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Safe Harbor Agreements are two other existing programs established by federal agency handbooks that encourage voluntary species conservation and investment in exchange for certainty. This simple bill aims to codify the requirements for HCPs, Candidate Conservation Agreements with Assurances and Safe Harbor Agreements found in agency regulations in order to provide certainty and reward the good behavior of public and private entities that faithfully uphold their agreements in order to help recover listed species. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (22): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Hunter (CA-50), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Mooney (WV-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Perry (PA-04), Rokita (IN-04), Stewart (UT-02), Tipton (CO-03), Walden (OR-02).

           



7.     
H.R. 6346, the bipartisan WHOLE Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Johnson (LA-04). This simple bill ensures that the totality of conservation measures underway will be considered before taking federal actions that impact species.  Further, this good governance and common sense legislation will reduce costs associated with consultation, allow important projects to move forward while ensuring these actions don’t negatively impact species and result in more private contributions that help recover endangered species.  In May, the House passed a nearly identical amendment (H.AMDT.631) to the Farm Bill. In recent years, local landowners showed unprecedented support for Lesser Prairie Chicken conservation and committed approximately 4 million acres and more than $26 million towards these efforts. Unfortunately, current practices do not allow conservation measures that take place outside of designated critical habitat to count in relation to federal actions. This arbitrary interpretation results in less conservation efforts for species and stifles private investment that would otherwise be encouraged if the totality of habitat conservation measures underway were allowed to be considered. The WHOLE Act addresses this problem. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (31): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Gosar (AZ-04), Hunter (CA-50), Johnson (OH-6), Jones (NC-03), LaMalfa (CA-01), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Meadows (NC-11), Mooney (WV-02), Mullin (OK-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Pearce (NM-02), Perry (PA-04), Rokita (IN-04), Schrader (OR-5), Stewart (UT-02), Thompson (PA-05), Walker (NC-06), Wilson (SC-02).
b.       Endorsements in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements: National Cotton Council Louisiana Farm Bureau Federation, Louisiana Cotton & Grain Associat
ion.

            


8.     
H.R. 6354, the STORAGE Act, introduced by Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04). In the past, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has proposed critical habitat designations which pass through or include limited water infrastructure areas. Though these cases represented USFWS simply failing to understand before issuing a proposal that this land is inherently unsuitable for critical habitat designation under the Act’s own definition – for failing to be free from “disturbance and destruction” – statutory language which provides for a de-facto exclusion of these limited areas that are crucially important for reservoir and water delivery operations across the country should be instituted in order to settle any confusion before it can take place, boost efficiency and categorically prevent these wrongful listings. Limited reservoir and other artificial water delivery land is not useful for the endangered species in question because it in fact lacks the characteristics that would contribute to their recovery. But if it is designated “critical” under the Act, it counts towards species recovery efforts. This simple bill will ensure sure these confused and mistaken listings cannot take place – for the benefit of listed species, water and power infrastructure operators as well as water and power customers. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (20): Abraham (LA-05), Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Bishop (UT-01), Cramer (ND-At Large), Duncan (SC-03), Estes (KS-04), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Hunter (CA-50), LaMalfa (CA-01), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), McClintock (CA-04), Mooney (WV-02), Newhouse (WA-04), Noem (SD-At Large), Norman (SC-05), Perry (PA-04), Rokita (IN-04).
b.       Endorsement in addition to the 170+ Package Endorsements:
Salt River Project.

           


9.     
H.R. 3608, the Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Actintroduced by Rep. McClintock (CA-04). H.R. 3608 requires data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, allowing the American people to actually see what data is being used to make key listing decisions. The bill also requires the federal government to disclose to affected states all data used prior to any ESA listing decisions and require that the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government include data provided by affected states, tribes, and local governments. H.R. 3608 also requires the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online: 1) funds expended to respond to ESA lawsuits; 2) the number of employees dedicated to litigation; and 3) attorney’s fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements. Finally, this bill prioritizes resources towards species protection by placing reasonable caps on attorney’s fees and making the ESA consistent with another federal law. The Equal Access to Justice Act currently limits the hourly rate for prevailing attorney fees to $125 per hour. However, no such fee cap currently exists under the ESA, and attorneys have often been awarded huge sums of taxpayer-funded money. This bill would put in place the same $125 per hour cap on attorney’s fees for suits filed under the ESA. Click here to see the text of the bill. Click here to see the Caucus summary. Click here to see the Committee hearing memo.
a.       Cosponsors (22): Banks (IN-03), Biggs (AZ-05), Estes (KS-04), Gianforte (MT-At Large), Gohmert (TX-01), Gonzalez-Colon (PR), Hunter (CA-50), Huizenga (MI-02), Jenkins (KS-02), Jones (NC-03), LaMalfa (CA-01), Luetkemeyer (MO-03), Marshall (KS-01), Mooney (WV-02), Mullin (OK-02), Norman (SC-05), Pearce (NM-02), Perry (PA-04), Rokita (IN-04), Stewart (UT-02), Thompson (PA-05), Tipton (CO-03).

 
            


Stakeholders and organizations supporting all 9 bills in the 115th Congress package include (170+):
Aethon Energy, American Exploration & Mining Association, American Exploration & Production Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Highway Users Alliance, American for Limited Government, American Loggers Council, American Petroleum Institute, American Sheep Industry Association, Colorado River Energy Distributors Association, Family Farm Alliance, Federal Forest Resource Coalition, Free Market America, Hardwood Federation, Healthy Forests Healthy CommunitiesIndependent Petroleum Association of America, Intermountain Forest Association, Land Conservation Assistance Network, National Aquaculture Association, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Counties (NACo), National Association of Home Builders, National Association of Realtors, National Cotton Council, National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC), National Grazing Lands Coalition, National Mining Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Neiman Timber Company, Safari Club International, United Water Conservation District, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Western Energy Alliance, Agribusiness & Water Council of ArizonaArizona Cattle Feeders Association, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, Arizona Mining Association, Arizona Pork Producers Council, Arizona Rock Products Association, California Wool Growers Association, Campbell County Board of Commissioners, Colorado Cattlemen's Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Pork Producers Council, DC Cattle Co LLC, Florida Farm Bureau Federation, Food Resource Group, Hawaii Aquaculture and Aquaponics Association, Idaho Farm Bureau Federation, Idaho Water Users Association, Imperial Irrigation District, Lake Havasu Area Chamber of Commerce, La Paz County Supervisor Holly Irwin, La Paz County Supervisor Duce Minor, La Paz County Supervisor D.L. Wilson, Minnesota State Cattlemen’s Association, Missouri Sheep Producers, Mohave County Supervisor Buster Johnson, Mohave County Supervisor Gary WatsonMontana Woolgrowers Association, New Mexico Association of Conservation Districts, New Mexico Cattlegrowers' Association, New Mexico Federal Lands Council, New Mexico Wool Growers, Oregon Water Resources Congress, Pima Natural Resource Conservation District,Utah Mining Association, Wyoming Senate President Eli Bebout, Yavapai Cattle Growers Association, Yuma County Chamber of Commerce. Arizona Sportsmen’s Groups: Apache County BigGame Forever; Arizona BigGame Forever; Arizona Deer Association; AZ Bass Nation; Bass Federation; BASS Junkyz; Flagstaff BigGAme Forever; Malihini Sports Association; Mesa/Gilbert BigGame Forever; Mognlian Sporting Association; Northern Arizona BigGame Forever; Phoenix BigGame Forever; Southwest Fur Harvesters; Sportsmen’s Business Alliance; SRT Outdoors; Tuscon BigGame Forever; Wild at Heart Adventures. Colorado Sportsmen’s Groups: Boulder BigGame Forever; Centenial BigGame Forever; Colorado BigGame Forever; Colorado Mule Deer Association; Colorado Outfitters Association; Colorado Sportsmen Make America Great; Colorado Springs BigGame Forever; Colorado Wool Growers; Grand Junction BigGame Forever; Pagosa Springs BigGame Forever. Idaho Sportsmen’s Groups: BigGame Forever Idaho; Idaho Falls BigGame Forever; Idaho for Wildlife; Idaho Sportsmen for Wildlife; Northern Idaho BigGame Forever; Pocatello BigGame Forever; Save Western Wildlife; Twin Falls BigGame Forever. Montana Sportsmen’s Groups: BigGame Forever Gallatin City; BigGame Forever Missoula; BigGame Forever Montana; BigGame Forever Park County; BigGame Forever Sweet Grass County; Citizens for Balanced Use; Montana Sportsmen for Wildlife; Montana Trappers Association; Southwest Montana SCI. Oregon Sportsmen’s Groups: Oregon United Sporting Dog Association. Utah Sportsmen’s Groups: Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife; Utah BigGame Forever. Washington State Sportsmen’s Groups: Boeing Employees Everett Gun Club; Borderline Bassin' Contenders; Capitol City Rifle/Pistol; Cascade Mountain Men; Cascade Tree Hound Club; Cedar River Bowmen; Citizens for Responsible Wildlife Management; Double U Hunting Supply; Edison Sportsmen's Club; Inland NW Wildlife Council; KBH Archers; Kittitas County Field & Stream; National Wild Turkey Federation - South Sound Longbeards; North Flight Waterfowl; Northwest Sportsman's Club; NW Field Trial & Hound Association; Okanogan Hound Club; Pacific Flyway; Pateros Sportsman's Club; Paul Bunyan Rifle and Sportsmen's Club; Pheasants Forever Chapter #257; Pierce inlandCounty Sportsmen's Council; Richland Rod & Gun Club; Ruffed Grouse Society – WA; Safari Club International - Central WA; Safari Club International - Columbia Basin; Safari Club International - Inland Empire Chapter; Safari Club International – Northwest; Safari Club International - Seattle Puget Sound; Safari Club International - Southwest Washington; Seattle Sportsmen’s Conservation Foundation; Skagit Sportsman and Training Association; Tacoma Sportsmen's Club; Vashon Sportsmen's Club; Washington Falconer's Association; Washington for Wildlife; Washington Game Fowl Breeders Association; Washington Muzzleloaders Association; Washington State Archery Association; Washington State BigGame Forever; Washington State Hound Council; Washington State Hunter Heritage Council; Washington State Trappers Association; Washington Waterfowl Association; Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation; Wildlife Committee of Washington.

7/12/18
Bipartisan ESA Modernization Legislative Rollout

  • On 7/12/18, the Western Caucus rolled out an important bipartisan ESA modernization package comprised of 9 bills.
  • Click HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE and HERE for important coverage of this unprecedented legislative rollout.
  • Click HERE to watch the full video of the Legislative Forum that day featuring 16 Members of Congress and 12 stakeholder witnesses.
  • Click HERE to watch the live-stream of the Press Conference following the Legislative Forum and bill introductions.
  • Lots of pictures and more information on these events and bills are below.
            

         



        


        


        


       



       


      


      



      


      



       

Panelists at 7/12/18 Legislative Forum

Panel 1

  • Ryan Yates, American Farm Bureau Federation
  • Jordan Smith, National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition
  • Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance
  • Sam McDonald, Independent Petroleum Association of America
  • Janelle Lemen, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association
  • Myron Ebell, Competitive Enterprise Institute

Panel 2

  • Richard Ranger, American Petroleum Institute
  • Courtney Briggs, National Association of Home Builders
  • Stefanie Smallhouse, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation
  • Rick Manning, Americans for Limited Government
  • Ian Lyle, National Water Resources Association
  • Ron McMurray, American Exploration & Mining Association

Quotes from Select Letters of Support for the 115th Congress Package:

American Farm Bureau Federation:
“On behalf of the nearly 6 million Farm Bureau member families across the United States, I commend you and your colleagues for your leadership in the development of common-sense modifications to improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA)...Despite the fact that the ESA was enacted to promote the public good, farmers and ranchers bear the financial brunt of providing food and habitat for listed species through restrictions imposed by the ESA. Society expects that listed species be saved and their habitats protected, but this cost falls on the landowner upon whose property a species is found. Farmers follow the law. Because of this, they need straight lines with respect to regulatory requirements as blurry lines bring uneasiness... The American Farm Bureau Federation strongly supports these bills and we look forward to working with you on these important legislative proposals.”

National Association of Home Builders:

“These bills would make needed improvements to the ESA that would benefit species, landowners and the federal agencies charged with enforcing the law. We are pleased that these bills make positive changes to the listing and delisting process, address the backlog of species petitions, encourage consultation with the states and codify voluntary conservation programs. It would also create programs that would provide more flexibility and reduces costs for landowners. These modifications are a great first step towards improving the functionality of the ESA because it provides clarity and certainty for the regulated community while continuing to protect our nation’s most vulnerable species.”

National Association of Conservation Districts:
“The Endangered Species Act (ESA) must be modernized, and voluntary conservation plays an important role in achieving this. The ESA legislative package the Congressional Western Caucus has announced this week emphasizes the needs of communities impacted by listings and focuses on scientific consensus rather than a politically-driven agenda. NACD supports this package requiring the federal government to work with all public and private partners, including conservation districts and tribal governments, involved in managing the critical habitat for listed species.”

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association:
“NRECA strongly supports efforts by the Congressional Western Caucus to improve the Endangered Species Act through a series of targeted updates to the statute and its implementation. The Caucus’ package of bills will continue to protect threatened and endangered species, while providing flexibility and greater regulatory certainty and encouraging voluntary conservation efforts as a cost-effective means of achieving Endangered Species Act goals. These improvements will bring greater efficiencies and help reduce electric cooperatives’ costs of building and maintaining critical infrastructure that serves one in eight Americans.”

National Association of Counties (NACo):
“If enacted, the bills drafted by the Western Caucus’ membership would greatly improve how the federal government protects species and conserves their habitat. Counties strongly support provisions in the draft bills that ensure greater consultation and coordination with state and local governments in the development of listing decisions and species recovery goals. State and local governments serve as important partners with the federal government in resource and wildlife management decisions and employ individuals with scientific training who can assist the federal government in developing management plans. Species listing and recovery decisions should be based on the best available scientific data and consistent, reliable timelines. Counties have also developed data that can assist our federal partners in species conservation plans, and we encourage the federal government to use this data where available. Since state and local governments serve as reliable partners in wildlife and habitat management, we should also participate in threatened and endangered species recovery efforts.”

American Petroleum Institute:
“The bills being brought forward by the Western Caucus can make an important contribution to effective and balanced improvements to the ESA for the benefit of species populations and management of wildlife resources. The oil and natural gas industry is committed to the conservation of species, which can be done in concert with the production of U.S. oil and natural gas. It is also clear that producing the energy that we rely upon to fuel our economy has been a proven tool for job creation, economic stimulation, federal revenues and national security. We applaud the Western Caucus shining a light on this important issue in the West and all across the United States. We look forward to working with you and members of the Caucus to forward the legislation the Caucus is promoting moving forward.”

National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC):
“NESARC and its members are committed to promoting effective and balanced legislative and administrative improvements to the ESA that support the protection of fish, wildlife, and plant populations as well as responsible land, water, and resource management. The bills being championed by you and your colleagues speak directly to the longstanding need to address problems with the ESA, a law that has not been substantively updated in nearly three decades. They would make significant improvements to the law that are critical to the success of the law’s intent -- to protect and recover imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

American Exploration & Mining Association:
“The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service spends more of its resources on ESA paperwork and litigation then providing on-the-ground conservation of species and their habitat. The lack of effectiveness of the ESA is clear in that only about 2% of listed species have actually been recovered.”

Independent Petroleum Association of America:

“IPAA represents nearly 7,000 independent oil and gas explorers and producers that want to ensure species and their ecosystems are preserved for future generations. IPAA members are participants in federal, state and private efforts to project and conserve endangered or threatened species. More specifically, IPAA’s members have enrolled millions of acres in conservation plans and committed tens of millions of dollars to fund habitat conservation and restoration programs. The package includes many measures that would be of interest to IPAA. In particular, IPAA was engaged with a coalition to petition to delist the American Burying Beetle. The 12-month finding for this was due by August 8, 2016. Nearly two years later, no determination has been made.”

American for Limited Government:
“The United States has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources including energy to power the U.S. economy and farmland feed the people. The Endangered Species Act should not be used to bludgeon communities into submission. Americans for Limited Government want to thank the Western Caucus for taking this bold action to rein in an out of control federal government and return power to the local people on the ground. It is important for all Members of Congress to support the legislative package.”

Western Energy Alliance:
“Congress can also improve implementation of the ESA by allowing FWS to utilize its limited resources in the most efficient manner possible. Currently, resources are tied up responding to bulk petitions submitted by activist organizations with the specific goal of suing FWS when it unsurprisingly fails to meet the rigid deadlines of the law. The PETITION and LIST Acts would allow the Service to prioritize and respond to the backlog of petitions without the constant threat of legal action, thereby ensuring reviews are conducted in a thorough and accurate manner while enabling resources to be transferred from legal defense to species recovery. Finally, the designation of critical habitat can be and has been used as a tool to limit economic development rather than primarily focused on species protection. The WHOLE Act would reorient critical habitat designations to the original intent of the Act by allowing for mitigation offsets of critical habitat disturbance in non-critical areas, which would ensure.”

Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona:
“Our members want nothing more than to see endangered species recovered and delisted or more importantly, protected in advance to prevent listing in the first place. We feel this can be done without negatively impacting our economy and putting people out of business. Our members desire transparency, regulatory certainty, input and management at the local level; most importantly, they want to see the 800-pound litigation gorilla taken out of the driver’s seat.”

Arizona Farm Bureau Federation:
“After nearly four decades in existence, species recovery under the ESA has been dismal. In fact, only 3 percent of identified species have been successfully delisted in that time. Furthermore, the protections for 1,661 domestic species come at a cost of $1.47 billion annually (FY 2016). These statistics indicate the critical need for meaningful reforms the ESA. Arizona is currently home to 37 animal species listed as threatened or endangered. Given the nature of farming and ranching, many of these species impact working lands. Farmers and ranchers want to do their part to help preserve listed species and have a vested interest in implementing sustainable conservation efforts on their land. However, the ESA in its current form fails to provide meaningful land owner incentives for species conservation and instead imposes regulatory burdens that result in land use restrictions.”

National Association of Counties (NACo):
“If enacted, the bills drafted by the Western Caucus’ membership would greatly improve how the federal government protects species and conserves their habitat. Counties strongly support provisions in the draft bills that ensure greater consultation and coordination with state and local governments in the development of listing decisions and species recovery goals. State and local governments serve as important partners with the federal government in resource and wildlife management decisions and employ individuals with scientific training who can assist the federal government in developing management plans. Species listing and recovery decisions should be based on the best available scientific data and consistent, reliable timelines. Counties have also developed data that can assist our federal partners in species conservation plans, and we encourage the federal government to use this data where available. Since state and local governments serve as reliable partners in wildlife and habitat management, we should also participate in threatened and endangered species recovery efforts.”

                     


Quotes from our Members supporting the 115th Congress Package:

Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04)
said, "15 Members of Congress, 12 panelists, nine bills, and a combined thousands of hours of experience dealing with the Endangered Species Act at all levels. That's what we put on display today when we introduced our ESA modernization package and held a packed Legislative Forum and press conference. We showed everyone that Congress can come together to scope out a problem, listen and learn from affected parties, set out clear principles, devise bipartisan proposals and introduce them in a show of unity. Just one of those is usually enough to derail a Congressional effort, so I am very proud of this group of Members for coming together and unveiling a package of smart, targeted, thoughtful modernization amendments to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. My friend and Democratic Caucus Member from Oregon Kurt Schrader even came onboard to cosponsor the LOCAL and WHOLE Acts - and he tells me he's reviewing the other bills closely to see how they read to him. I challenge all Members, advocacy and industry groups and media observers to follow Rep. Schrader's lead and look closely at what we've proposed here, to consider carefully the testimony of millions of Americans as to the longstanding and fixable failures of the ESA to conserve species and balance interests appropriately - to do all of that, and then tell me you can't come onboard with our effort."

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (UT-01) stated, “We’re all aware that the Endangered Species Act hasn’t undergone any significant updates in over 40 years. Neither endangered species, nor the American people, are benefited by this lack of modernization. It’s past time for reform. The law needs to be updated to ensure it maintains its original intent and focus of species recovery and not simply serve as a tool for endless litigation. The Committee has worked for many years to put the ESA back on the right track. Now is the time to modernize this antiquated law to simultaneously benefit both endangered species and the American people.”

Executive Vice Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03) stated, “The most effective approach to species recovery and conservation is through proactive localized efforts that take into account the unique landscape, habitat and ecological conditions of an area. When empowering those who have their boots on the ground every day to lead these critical conservation and recovery efforts, we can best assure the health and success of the species. The LOCAL Act would engage non-federal landowners, incentivize voluntary conservation efforts, and assist local communities in drafting and implementing conservation plans for threatened and endangered species. I urge my colleagues who want to be proactive about conservation and species recovery, rather than reactive, to support this bill and the Endangered Species Act modernization package as a whole.”

Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04) said, “It is long past time that we reform the Endangered Species Act. In the more than 40 years since its introduction and passage, much has changed in our nation and its environment, but the law has not kept up with the evolving realities of the 21st Century. The PETITION Act would give the Interior Secretary the tools necessary to prevent frivolous lawsuits from stopping the work of the Fish and Wildlife Service, while ensuring more resources are available to protect truly endangered species. I thank my colleagues from the Congressional Western Caucus for their leadership on this issue and I look forward to our collective efforts to modernize an important piece of American law.”

Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05) stated, “I thank Chairman Gosar and Chairman Bishop for their leadership on the Endangered Species Act modernization package. This action is long overdue, and will help millions of Americans around the country by protecting local interests – not special interests. As a part of this package, I introduced the LIST Act, which makes a number of improvements to bring the ESA up-to-date. Most notably, the LIST Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to de-list species when he receives an objective, measurable, and scientific study demonstrating a species has recovered. This will allow us to focus resources to protect species that actually need it. I support all of the bills introduced today, and I look forward to their movement through Congress.”

Chairman Emeritus Steve Pearce (NM-02) stated, “This bill would simply require the federal government to consult with states before making a listing decision under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Recent listings under the ESA have lacked adequate consultation and communication with the states who have these animals. Lack of communication is a lost opportunity for the Fish and Wildlife Service to utilize state expertise and information on species under review. Decisions to list species under the ESA often have serious adverse economic consequences, which is why the federal government should review all relevant information before making a decision. The EMPOWERS Act will help prevent rushed decisions that hurt local economies. Improvements must be made to the substance of listing decisions, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to move this commonsense bill forward.”

Vice-Chairman for Indian Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large) said, “The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has been weaponized and misused by environmental groups for too long. I am pleased to be part of the Western Caucus’ efforts to reign in the ESA, and to sponsor the Localizing Authority of Management Plans (LAMP) Act. This legislation, along with other bills introduced today by my colleagues, will work to truly modernize the ESA and return the focus of the law to its original intent of species conservation and recovery.”

Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04) said, “The ESA has been exploited for decades placing unnecessary burdens on our nation’s hard-working farmers and ranchers. And while protecting wildlife and their habitats is of the utmost importance, the agriculture community is already proactively and heavily involved in conservation programs that implement critical protections for both. My bill helps modernize the ESA so we can continue to protect endangered species and let our farmers and ranchers get back to what they do best - providing a safe, sustainable food source for the American people.”

Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05) said, “I am happy to join my colleagues of the Western Caucus in support of the Endangered Species Act Modernization Package of Legislation, which makes necessary and common-sense updates to the Endangered Species Act. These bills continue to ensure protects for endangered species and successful species conservation, while increasing transparency, bringing accountability to the decision making process, and including States and local governments in the efforts to protect species. Importantly I am proud to have introduced the PREDICTS Act, which codifies the 'No Surprises' regulation and provides for greater certainty and improved planning for incidental take permit holders and landowners entering into agreements to improve the status and recovery of at-risk and listed species.”

House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman Greg Walden (OR-02) stated, “We’ve seen time and again the impact of Endangered Species Act listings on communities across rural Oregon. Too often, the ESA decision making process has ignored local input and science on the ground. It’s past time to bring greater transparency to this process, and recognize and reward the contributions our farmers, ranchers, and other private land owners make towards improving habitat. By making common-sense changes to modernize the ESA, we can protect the livelihoods of Oregonians and people across the rural West, while still achieving the goal I share with all Americans of recovering endangered species. These bills are an important step towards achieving those results.”

Congresswoman Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) said, “As a cosponsor of the LIST Act, I am proud to be a part of this reform package championed by the Western Caucus. This bill allows the Secretary of the Interior to remove certain species from the endangered list when scientific evidence shows the species has recovered. Recovery has always been the primary goal of the Endangered Species Act, and this bill will allow more time and resources to go back into protecting the species that need help the most. The current Endangered Species Act is outdated and reforms are needed to achieve these outcomes.  Thank you to my colleague, Congressman Andy Biggs, for introducing this commonsense measure.”

Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large) stated, "Montanans have a deep respect for and appreciation of our lands and the wildlife that occupy them. Montanans believe we can support multiple use of lands while conserving species. Unfortunately, environmental extremist groups have distorted the Endangered Species Act from its original intent and use it to unnecessarily shut down needed projects throughout Montana. Today’s package of bills offers us an opportunity to modernize the ESA with targeted reforms that will encourage greater input from leaders on the ground, spur partnerships between communities to preserve habitats, and bring some common sense back to protecting endangered species."

Congressman Markwayne Mullin (OK-02) said, “For over 40 years, the Endangered Species Act has created burdensome red tape and unnecessary obstacles for landowners, small businesses, and communities to comply with, all without making species any safer from extinction.  With the introduction of these nine bills, Congress has an opportunity to modernize the Endangered Species Act by increasing transparency in the listing and delisting process as well as giving states a seat at the table when discussing in-state conservation efforts.  I look forward to the House’s consideration of these bills in order to streamline the Department of Interior’s conservation efforts in a practical, responsible way.”

Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01) said, “While the Endangered Species Act was signed into law over 40 years ago to protect and recover vulnerable species, only 2% of species listed as endangered have been fully recovered. That is far from a desirable success rate, and it’s clear that reforms are needed. For example, the Gray Wolf and Valley Elderberry Longhorn Beetle are two species in my district that have been on the endangered species list for nearly 40 years. Despite overwhelming evidence that these species have recovered, environmental groups threaten litigation to hamstring the recovery and delisting process. The ESA was never intended to be used a tool for activist attorneys to use to sue the government as a business plan. It’s about time we update and modernize the ESA to implement a more practical approach to managing and recovering endangered species. This way, hardworking Americans, businesses, and our wildlife will all benefit.”

Congressman Kevin Cramer (ND-At Large) said, “The stream of frivolous lawsuits we’ve seen aimed at exploiting the Endangered Species Act has crippled its ability to protect the interests of both species and people. We are taking a careful approach to reform with the goals of common sense species protection and transparency. These changes are significant and reasonable steps towards ensuring private property rights and economic livelihood of North Dakotans are respected.”

Congressman Ron Estes (KS-04) said, “This package addresses a long overdue need to modernize the Endangered Species Act,” said Rep. Ron Estes. “I am especially encouraged by an included initiative to count voluntary conservation efforts toward endangered species listings, including the Lesser Prairie Chicken. Recently, the Fish and Wildlife Service restarted efforts to list the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, despite millions of dollars in conservation efforts from Kansas farmers and ranchers through the range-wide plan. As someone who learned the importance of conservation of land and wildlife not from government, but from growing up on a farm in rural Kansas, I am glad this package will allow voluntary conservation efforts to be recognized when determining future endangered species listings.”

Congressman Roger Marshall (KS-01) stated, "The heartland and at-risk species benefit most when conservation efforts work hand-in-hand with landowners. The Endangered Species Act was created 45 years ago and has only achieved recovery for about 2 percent of the listed threatened species – with that track record, seeking improvements to the Act should be a no-brainer. As an avid outdoorsman, I’ve seen first-hand the success of public and private dollars working with landowners to rebuild and preserve habitats for our Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) – without the bird being a listed species. On-the-ground conservation efforts, along with a little cooperation from Mother Nature has increased the LPC population by almost 71 percent since the 2013 drought. While there is still more that we can and should do, a top-down ESA approach only threatens conservation and is proven to be ineffective, that’s why I am a proud cosponsor of the Western Caucuses Endangered Species Act Modernization Package. Local personnel have the greatest resources and knowledge of our wildlife needs, not Washington D.C." 

Congressman Doug Collins (GA-09) said, “Northeast Georgia is well known for its impressive lakes, mountains, flora and fauna. Like many in our region, I support conservation efforts to preserve these natural resources. Unfortunately, some of our laws—particularly the Endangered Species Act—have failed to live up to their purpose. The ESA has too often been weaponized by special interest groups, wasting taxpayer resources and needlessly burdening Americans without accomplishing its intended goal of recovering vulnerable species. The ESA reforms ushered in by the Western Caucus today would make commonsense updates to the law and allow communities to enhance their conservation efforts in order to protect wildlife more thoughtfully, and I welcome them.”

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