Western Caucus Members Introduce Legislation to Codify Endangered Species Act Improvements

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Western Caucus Members introduced five pieces of legislation to codify the Trump Administration’s 2019 and 2020 regulations to modernize and improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
 
Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) introduced legislation to maintain the Trump Administration’s Section 4 regulations that require the economic impact of an ESA listing decision to be considered.
 
“Listing decisions have enormous impacts on every aspect of our communities,” said Chairman Newhouse. “The Trump Administration took significant action to modernize the Endangered Species Act for the first time in decades, ensuring that we direct our efforts and resources toward effective species recovery while empowering rural communities to thrive. The Biden Administration is reversing this progress – not to improve the dismal 3% success rate of the ESA – but rather to appease special interest groups. By codifying the Trump Administration’s regulations, we can provide certainty for our local conservation partners and ensure transparency around listing of a species under this landmark protection law.”
 
Rep. Paul Gosar (AZ-04) introduced legislation to maintain the Trump Administration’s Section 7 regulations to ensure a timely, comprehensive consultation process for listing decisions.
 
"The Trump administration worked hard to bring the ESA into the 21st Century and the Section 7 rule was one of the key pieces," said Gosar. "That rule helps improve the efficiency of the historically clunky ESA consultation process. Rolling back this important rule and returning to the original process developed in the 1970’s, as the Biden Administration is proposing, is completely inappropriate. Congress must act and protect the rule, the process and ensure that we are moving species protection forward for the new century not backward." 

Rep. Yvette Herrell (NM-02) introduced legislation to codify the Trump Administration’s regulations on critical habitat exclusions, which provide the Secretary of the Interior the authority to exclude an area from critical habitat designation if all relevant impacts outweigh the benefits of inclusion.
 
"New Mexico has become ground zero for the Endangered Species Act (ESA)," said Herrell. "From the Mexican Spotted Owl to the Lesser Prairie Chicken, ESA designations are impacting some of ours state's most important industries and have crushed others. The Fish and Wildlife Service absolutely must take into account these economic impacts when deciding what land will be the most restricted for use and designated as critical habitat. Without this discretion, jobs will be lost and our way of life in Southern New Mexico will be under threat."
 
Rep. Cliff Bentz (OR-02) introduced legislation to maintain the commonsense regulation requiring any critical habitat designation to only include habitat that is critical to the survival of a listed species.
 
"In the Biden Administration’s latest effort to reverse every accomplishment of the Trump Administration, the U.S. Department of Interior has rescinded the December of 2020 science-based definition of habitat. This change will have far-reaching and potentially disastrous implications for rural communities, federal forests, and wildlife," said Bentz. "Sadly, President Biden has made it clear that his administration’s policies are focused on fulfilling the agenda of far-left environmental radicals instead of conserving our natural resources and working with rural communities where many Americans have lived and protected the land for generations. That is why I introduced H.R. 5708, a bill to codify the Trump Administration’s definition of habitat, which is scientifically based and meets the needs of both our environment and the people living within it. My bill will help to begin restoring balance to species management policies that lock up federal lands from human activity – including those activities which will help clean up, conserve, and restore natural habitats." 

Rep. Ken Buck (CO-04) introduced legislation to codify the Trump Administration’s elimination of blanket 4(d) rule, maintaining different levels of protection for endangered vs. threatened species and incentivizing voluntary and private conservation efforts.
 
"I am proud to introduce 'The Threatened Species Protection Improvement Act of 2021,' which ensures animals listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act are provided with protections specifically tailored to their conservation needs. By passing this legislation, we can improve conservation efforts and prevent the Biden Administration from weaponizing the Endangered Species Act to lock away thousands of acres of land across the country," said Buck. "A one-size-fits-all approach to environmental regulations burdens American farmers and ranchers and does not improve conservation outcomes. Instead, we should be issuing protective regulations and orders that are species-specific. The Trump administration took important steps in this area via executive order with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2019, however, President Biden has caved to radical environmentalists who want to overturn these important policy changes. It is time to pass this bill so we can cement these provisions into law."
 
All five pieces of legislation were introduced with the support of Vice Chair Bruce Westerman (AR-04), Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee.
 
"Today, we are pushing back against the tone-deaf rollback of Trump-era ESA reforms with the introduction of these bills," said Vice Chair Westerman. "No one should have power to weaponize the ESA against rural Americans, bogging them down in years of litigation, burdensome regulations and government overreach. The Biden administration's proposed changes will result in greater inefficiency in the federal permitting process and less proactive conservation work to help save species. They are also legally questionable, as the regulations they aim to replace were the result of a Supreme Court decision. By reinstating these reforms and codifying them into law, we are putting the power back in the hands of Americans. I am grateful for the work of my colleagues who introduced these bills and look forward to working with my colleagues across the aisle to ensure we preserve the commonsense actions promulgated by the last administration."
 
Background:
 
In June, Chairman Newhouse penned an op-ed with Brian Yablonski, President & CEO of the Property and Environment Research Center, to highlight the importance of maintaining the Trump Administration’s regulations to increase flexibility for species recovery efforts. Click here to read it.
 
The Congressional Western Caucus hosted a virtual forum with Rep. Bentz to examine the impacts the listing of the northern spotted owl has had on Pacific Northwest communities. Learn more.
 
Chairman Newhouse and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (WY-AL) discussed the ongoing ESA modernization efforts, as well as the successful recovery of the grizzly bear, in a Chairman’s Chat video. Click here to watch.
 
Chairman Newhouse was joined by Rep. Tom Tiffany (WI-07) and Todd Myers, Director of the Center for the Environment at the Washington Policy Center, to discuss the successful delisting of the gray wolf from the ESA in an episode of the Congressional Western Caucus podcast, A Voice for Rural America. Click here to listen.

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