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.
Participants at the Roundtable:
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 Act, Rep. 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Communities, Independent 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 Arizona, Arizona 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 Watson, Montana 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
Panelists at 7/12/18 Legislative Forum
Quotes from Select Letters of Support for the 115th Congress 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 our Members supporting the 115th Congress 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.”