Forum Emphasizes The Importance Of Reforming The Endangered Species Act

Members and policy experts highlight the areas in which the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has failed in its original intent, bureaucratic overreach and abuses, and the need to reform the ESA

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the Congressional Western Caucus and the House Natural Resources Committee’s Joint ESA Working Group co-hosted a Forum to hear directly from organizations representing farmers, ranchers, county commissioners, and small businesses about the need to reform and modernize the Endangered Species Act.  The forum was led by Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04) and included several Western Caucus Members including Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee Bruce Westerman (AR-04), and Representatives Harriet Hageman (WY-AL), Jerry Carl (AL-01), Cliff Bentz (OR-02), Lauren Boebert (CO-03), and John Duarte (CA-13). Rep. Jared Huffman (CA-02), a Member of the Natural Resources Committee, also participated.

“Yesterday we heard from stakeholders representing farmers, ranchers, offshore energy, sportsmen, and small businesses who shared their thoughts on how the ESA can better help recover species while also reducing the regulatory burdens placed on our partners on the ground,” said Chairman Dan Newhouse (WA-04). “As Chairman of the Western Caucus and co-chair of the ESA Working Group, I understand the importance of hearing feedback from folks across the country to hear about their experiences with the ESA.  I want to thank our participants, Members, and guests who joined us today for an important discussion that will help inform our working group as we work on ESA reforms going forward.”

"This dialogue was an essential step in our efforts to improve the ESA for the benefit of all Americans, not the environmental lawyers profiting from endless litigation. The testimony we heard from residents across the country made it clear that the ESA is broken and desperately needs to be reformed,” said House Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Bruce Westerman (AR-04). “I want to thank Representative Newhouse and all of our panelists and members who participated in this forum. I look forward to continuing to work with all participants to develop responsible and reasonable solutions to modernize the ESA and fix this broken policy."

Members heard from policy experts who highlighted, through their own experiences, the importance of reforming the ESA:

  • Mr. Ryan Bronson, Director of Government Affairs, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
  • Mr. Ken Hamilton, Executive Vice President, Wyoming Farm Bureau
  • Ms. Amanda McKinney, Chair, Board of Yakima County Commissioners
  • Mr. Andre Monette, Partner, Environmental and Natural Resources Practice, Best, Best & Krieger LLP
  • Mr. Rick Grinnell, Co-Founder, Southern Arizona Business Coalition
  • Mr. Kevin Bruce, Executive Director, Gulf Energy Alliance

“The Endangered Species Act should not be used to keep states from managing their wildlife just because special interests don’t like specific nuances in the way that they do it. That seems to be the motivation for keeping wolves in the Great Lakes and grizzlies in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem listed. The states have worked to meet the 5 factors of the ESA delisting, and management should return to the states,” said Mr. Ryan Bronson.

“Private lands are essential to many listed species. Think how much more could be achieved if the federal government would seek to work with landowners rather than create hardships for them. Congress needs to step in and provide the framework that will allow this to happen and not rely on the federal power to force landowners into situations which cost them money and possibly their farm or ranch,” said Mr. Ken Hamilton.

“The ESA in its present form creates constant roadblocks for implementing plans that will have measurable success for many areas of concern, not just one singular issue,” said Ms. Amanda McKinney.

“It is a great honor to have the opportunity to share my experiences with the Joint Endangered Species Act Working Group. It is reassuring that Congress is undertaking this kind of effort to take a critical look at the Endangered Species Act, and see how it can be improved. Too often the costs associated with species conservation are borne by private property owners and local government. That needs to change. When I speak to people in the regulated community, their biggest concerns are agency accountability, lack of certainty and finality, and lost time. There are some simple changes to the ESA that could dramatically improve those conditions. Ironically those changes have largely had bi-partisan support and include consolidating endangered species management in a single agency, and enacting meaningful environmental permitting reform. Most of all, however, it takes leadership in the Executive Branch to ensure appropriate implementation of the law. Nobody wants to see species go extinct, but there must be reasonable regulation and private property owners cannot be expected to foot the bill. I am pleased to see the House Natural Resources Committee taking this issue head on and looking for ways to improve conditions of those who are impacted by the ESA,” said Mr. Andre Monette.

“The ESA is being used by opponents of important resource development projects to slow down and, ultimately, stop these projects. To meet the important goals of the Act and to continue to meet the economic needs of this great country, a much more collaborative effort is needed to move the goals of the Act forward,” said Mr. Rick Grinnell.

“The Rice’s whale issue is nothing more than a pretext for the Biden Administration’s continued assault on oil and natural gas production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, where we produce the cleanest barrels on the planet.  Indeed, the restrictions imposed by the “sue and settle” process only apply to oil and gas operations. Clearly, the administration is not concerned about the Rice’s whale because the restrictions don’t apply to the thousands of vessels that will traverse the new restricted areas conducting international trade or fishing. Endangered species regulation through litigation is a complete end-run around a science-based process of establishing habitat through the established procedures under the Endangered Species Act and a proper notice and comment rulemaking. The Administration also completely ignores its own “science,” as both the National Marine Fisheries Service and BOEM concluded just eight months ago the prior habitat designation for the Rice’s whale were sufficient and did not require expansion. In short, the Biden Administration’s settlement agreement with these anti-fossil fuel activists ignores the best science, runs counter to Congress’ explicit directives in the Inflation Reduction Act, and threatens America’s energy independence,” said Mr. Kevin Bruce.

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