Congress last reauthorized the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1988. Accordingly, it has been nearly 30 years since any updates have been made to this law. Life has changed significantly since that time. With the creation of new technologies like iPhones and the World Wide Web as well as a willingness to be part of the solution from States and local communities who have suffered unintended consequences of the Act, there are important improvements that should be made for the betterment of plants and animals in order to bring the ESA into the 21st Century.
Caucus Introduces Bipartisan ESA Modernization Package
Organizations endorsing all 9 bills in this package (115+) including:
American Exploration & Mining Association, American Farm Bureau Federation, American for Limited Government, American Loggers Council, American Petroleum Institute, Free Market America, Independent Petroleum Association of America, National Association of Conservation Districts, National Association of Counties (NACo), National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC), National Association of Home Builders, National Mining Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, Western Energy Alliance, Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona, Arizona Farm Bureau Federation, Arizona Mining Association, Arizona Pork Producers Council, Arizona Rock Products Association, DC Cattle Co LLC, Pima Natural Resource Conservation District, Yavapai Cattle Growers Association. 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 Farm Bureau; 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; Save Western Wildlife; Southwest Montana SCI. 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; Inland NW Wildlife Council; KBH Archers; Kittitas County Field & Stream; National Wild Turkey Federation - South Sound Longbeards; North Flight Waterfowl; Northwest Sportsman's Club; 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 County 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; Washingtonians for Wildlife Conservation; Wildlife Committee of Washington.
With a 3% recovery rate over 45 years, the ESA need to be modernized 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. The final key to improving recovery rates for plants and animals is empowering states and affected stakeholders to be part of the solution. 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.
Western Caucus Bipartisan ESA Modernization Package
The nine bills featured in the Western Caucus Legislative Rollout on July 12th 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 a substantive summary.
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 a substantive summary.
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 several longstanding practices and regulatory language which facilitate voluntary conservation, including 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 commons 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 a substantive summary.
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 a substantive summary.
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 a substantive summary.
7/12Member & Stakeholder Forum & Press Conference
Pictures and More Information
Quotes from Select Letters of Support on this Package:
American Farm Bureau Federation:
National Association of Conservation Districts:
National Rural Electric Cooperative Association:
American Petroleum Institute:
American Exploration & Mining Association:
Western Energy Alliance:
Agribusiness & Water Council of Arizona:
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation:
National Association of Counties (NACo):
Quotes from Select Letters of Support on this Package:
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.”
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.”