Modernizing the Endangered Species Act for the 21st Century

Today, Members of the Western Caucus released the following statements after the introduction of a 17-bill legislative package to modernize the Endangered Species Act to better protect species, and to treat property owners, states and local stakeholders as partners rather than obstacles:

"The Endangered Species was enacted with the best intentions, but it has failed to live up to its noble vision. Instead of recovering species, the status quo of the ESA leaves threatened and endangered species on life support for decades. This package of bills would protect private property rights, encourage voluntary conservation, improve forest health in order to protect species and local communities, increase multiple use activities and protect critical infrastructure," said Chairman Paul Gosar (AZ-04).

"For too long livestock producers have battled against the federal government’s attempts to reduce grazing on public lands. This language is crucial to safeguarding ranchers, who legally graze on federal lands, from frivolous lawsuits that force them off their allotments, leaving them no choice other than to sell their livestock at fire sale prices and subjecting them to economic ruin. My proposal ensures they will be able to continue to graze on public lands as they have for generations and it fulfills the intended mission of the multiple use doctrine by protecting the interests of stakeholders in Wyoming. These reforms, in addition to the other pieces of legislation included in this package, are key to modernizing the Endangered Species Act and bringing it into the 21st century," said House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney (WY-At Large).

"Ensuring the ESA is working properly for vulnerable wildlife populations requires effective coordination between municipal and tribal governments and our federal conservation agencies. As it stands, the ESA’s framework for facilitating interactions between these important stakeholders is thin. The LAMP Act takes important steps to ensure that states with robust conservation programs are empowered to take the lead in protecting sensitive ecosystems to be enjoyed for generations to come. I am pleased to see my legislation included in this package and will continue working to ensure that the ESA is functioning as Congress intended," said Vice-Chairman for Indian and Affairs and Oceans Don Young (AK-At Large).

"I would never want to see an endangered species become extinct.  However, current Endangered Species Act policies that allow the U.S. government to buy land in other countries will not save any wildlife.  After all, mere ownership of foreign land does not grant our nation the sovereignty or jurisdiction to carry out policies that will actually protect foreign wildlife.  Instead, we’d have to hope that foreign nations are as willing and committed to saving wildlife as we are – which is not a great bet in parts of the developing world where many endangered species reside.  Given our nation’s current fiscal challenges, we should instead be directing scarce taxpayer dollars to wildlife priorities within our own borders," said Chief Regulatory Reform Officer Andy Biggs (AZ-05).

"As we know all-too-well in Central Washington, Endangered Species Act listing and delisting decisions have huge, lasting impacts on local communities and environments. By establishing a process that considers the totality of conservation efforts, we incentivize private investment in species recovery, streamline federal decision-making, and promote the comprehensive efforts of states, local communities, and tribes across the West," said Chief Rules Officer Dan Newhouse (WA-04).

"When it comes to conservation and recovery of plants and wildlife, the expertise of those working on these issues locally with boots on the ground is unmatched, and they should have the flexibility to advance future recovery plans that take into account local conditions and challenges. The ultimate goal of the ESA is to keep species off of the list in the first place, and communities across Colorado have shown how local collaborative measures can be especially effective at recovering at-risk species like the Colorado Sage-Grouse. I am excited to continue supporting more cost-effective and efficient federal policies that encourage proactive conservation efforts like the LOCAL Act and overall modernization of the ESA," said Executive Vice-Chairman Scott Tipton (CO-03).

"I am introducing the Clearing Lines along Electrical At-Risk Zones (CLEAR Zones) Act. Owners and operators of power lines would simply have to submit their plans to the Secretary of Agriculture or Interior to clear trees or parts of trees near power lines. Currently, owners and operators are required to wait for environmental assessment or impact statements from a NEPA study. These trees serve as potential sources of ignition, and the longer that utility companies must wait to clear these trees, the more at-risk they are of falling on a power line and causing a fire. By reducing the wait times for active forest management, we can protect both our communities and those endangered species who make their homes on our public lands," said Chief Agriculture and Business Officer Doug LaMalfa (CA-01).

"The Endangered Species Act is a valuable tool that has restored some of America’s wildlife from the brink of extinction. It’s also a tool that litigious groups use to jam up the delisting process. The PETITION Act would modify existing timing requirements, equipping the Fish and Wildlife Service with the ability to delist species that have made a full recovery. This would allow FWS to focus on critically at-risk species, without being stretched too thin. The administration continues taking steps forward in conservation efforts, and this bill is a commonsense addition to those plans," said Chief Infrastructure and Forestry Officer Bruce Westerman (AR-04).

"The slate of bills in the Western Caucus are common sense reforms that restore integrity to the oft-abused Endangered Species Act (ESA).  My bill, the Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act, simply allows the American people to see, and contribute to, the data that is being used to make ESA listing decisions," said Chief Water and Wildlife Officer Tom McClintock (CA-04).

"Local communities, like the ones I represent in southern Missouri, must be included in the decision-making process for verdicts that impact their area. For decades, the federal government has made one-sided decisions about which species are covered by the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and therefore subjected American citizens without their input to burdensome regulations that hamper infrastructure investments and stifle economic growth. My legislation will empower our local communities by mandating that local stakeholders are consulted when any federal agency is making decisions about the ESA moving forward," said Congressman Jason Smith (MO-08).

"While the original intent of the Endangered Species Act is noble, the law has failed to make any meaningful impact on wildlife recovery and has instead placed a tremendous burden on Louisiana's landowners and economy. For example, under the Obama administration, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used the ESA to limit development on more than 1,500 acres of Louisiana land in an effort to recover the endangered Dusky Gopher Frog. Notably, the impacted property did not even possess the environmental feature the frog needed to survive. My bill makes common sense reforms to ensure endangered species are protected without compromising the success of hardworking Louisianans," said Congressman Mike Johnson (LA-04).

"Utahns deserve better from the Endangered Species Act than we’ve been getting. Critical infrastructure projects are too slow and too expensive because of permitting requirements that aren’t even resulting in species recovery. This bill helps alleviate some of that burden on our infrastructure," said Congressman Chris Stewart (UT-02).

"The FISH Act moves us toward a more consolidated and logical management of our endangered species and our rivers. It simply makes no sense to have multiple federal agencies responsible for enforcing the ESA. This unnecessary bureaucratic duplication delays the deployment and operation of critical infrastructure that drives our economy and enhances the natural environment. The FISH Act is a good government approach that will benefit species and all stakeholders affected by the ESA through a unified approach to managing threatened and endangered species. I want to thank Chairman Gosar for including the FISH Act in the ESA modernization package and supporting this needed change," said Congressman Ken Calvert (CA-42). 

"The modernization package of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) reveals a well-reasoned, fact-based assessment that is designed to actually save species rather than creating cumbersome laws that allow species to die. The ESA can be modernized to more successfully assist species that are truly in danger. My bill, H.R. 30, Saving America’s Vulnerable and Endangered Species (SAVES) Act, is fortunately included in this important and necessary package as it will allow conservationists who have saved many foreign endangered species once again by eliminating the disincentives to breed them in the U.S.  The SAVES Act removes regulatory burdens for ranchers and conservators engaged in captive breeding of exotic wildlife all while promoting animal conservation in the United States. The ESA has desperately needed an update for many years to encourage finding and protecting endangered species rather than penalizing them. This modernization package will not only protect countless species, it will in turn, include property owners, states and local stakeholders as partners rather than obstacles in preserving America’s precious wildlife," said Congressman Louie Gohmert (TX-01).

"The Endangered Species Act was enacted to protect truly endangered species, not be used as a political weapon for extreme environmentalists. Protecting endangered species can and should be done in a practical way. The government should have the flexibility to act quickly and practically on listing and delisting petitions. A triage system much like a hospital emergency room will ensure that the most endangered species get to the front of the line. This common-sense bill is practical and needed. I thank my colleagues Reps. Gosar, Weber, Newhouse, Babin, Biggs, Gianforte and Crawford for joining as original co-sponsors of this bill, and look forward to working with the Western Caucus to advance it in Congress," said Congressman Pete Olson (TX-22).

"We should celebrate the successful recovery of endangered species, including the grizzly bear in the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem. Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act has been twisted from its original purpose of preserving species into a tool for frivolous lawsuits. Our efforts will put guardrails on the ESA and modernize the nearly 50-year-old law to bring it into the 21st century. The LIFT Act empowers the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to act promptly on sound, established science to delist species that have recovered, and it prohibits abuses of the listing process," said Congressman Greg Gianforte (MT-At Large).

"Last week, I introduced the Threatened Species Protection Improvement Act (H.R. 5557). This bill further protects threatened species from becoming endangered by reducing unnecessary bureaucratic overreach and ending an Obama-era blanket rule that classifies threatened and endangered species as the same. Threatened species need their own specific treatment to ensure recovery and I encourage my colleagues to join me as cosponsors of this important legislation," said Congressman Ken Buck (CO-04).

“While it’s important to protect threatened species, it’s far too easy for the government to run roughshod over private property owners.  Absent the property owner’s consent, this bill would prohibit a critical habitat designation unless the Secretary of the Interior certifies that there is risk of extinction without such a designation.  As we seek to protect vulnerable species, there must be a fair and equitable way to treat property owners.  This bill is a much-needed step in that direction," said Congressman Ralph Norman (SC-05).

Background:

The entire package of bills can be found HERE.

Endorsements: U.S. Chamber of Commerce, National Association of Counties, National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition, National Home Builders, National Rural Electrical Cooperatives Association, Western Energy Alliance, Family Farm Alliance, National Mining Association, National Sand, Stone, and Gravel Association, American Agri-Women, American General Contractors Association, National Cotton Council, Colorado River Energy Distributers Association, United Snowmobile Association.

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