July 13, 2018 – Modernizing The Endangered Species Act
What is the Endangered Species Act?
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973 gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) the authority to list a species as threatened or endangered if it is susceptible to extinction. Today, there are over 2,000 species on the endangered list, all of which are under conservation status.
ESA listing was meant to be a medium-term support for species recovery – not a permanent classification for already recovered species. But statutory inefficiencies incentivize FWS to pour its resources into listing new species rather than re-evaluating already-listed ones for removal.
What is the problem?
Listing a species is a big deal. The protections that come along with listing impose costly measures on private landowners and federal agencies as well as limitations and requirements on project proposals – both public and private – and huge governmental and bureaucratic exertions.
While many species that are listed under the Endangered Species Act are eventually fully recovered, several of the bureaucratic processes for de-listing recovered species have broken down or failed entirely. For instance, there are currently 41 species on the list that have been recovered and should be removed.
In a past Freedom Friday, I highlighted a species in Arizona that has been recovered but remains on the endangered species list, the Mexican gray wolf. The continued protection of this wolf has allowed federal bureaucrats to limit use of public lands in the state and prevents ranchers from engaging the wolf to protect their land or livestock.
The ESA has also become a mechanism for radical environmental groups to submit false or fraudulent species data in order to cause a species to be listed as threatened or endangered. Wrongful listings of newly-discovered or poorly-understood species that turn out to be ecologically abundant lead to unnecessary costs and burdens for everyone involved in and impacted by the listing.
What am I doing about it?
Yesterday, members of the Congressional Western Caucus introduced nine bills to modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA). I introduced one of those bills, known as the LIST Act. My bill:
- Authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to de-list species when he receives an objective, measurable, and scientific study demonstrating a species is recovered;
- Creates a mechanism for FWS to promptly take action when a species is wrongfully listed, rather than letting the problem linger in federal bureaucracy; and
- Penalizes those who intentionally submit false or fraudulent data in order to cause a species listing.
To learn more about the Western Caucus ESA Modernization Package, please visit: westerncaucus.house.gov.
What are they saying?
"15 Members of Congress, 12 panelists, nine bills, and combined thousands of hours of experience dealing with the Endangered Species Act at all levels. That's what we put on display today when we introduced our ESA modernization package and held a packed Legislative Forum and press conference. We showed everyone that Congress can come together to scope out a problem, listen and learn from affected parties, set out clear principles, devise bipartisan proposals and introduce them in a show of unity. Just one of those is usually enough to derail a Congressional effort, so I am very proud of this group of Members for coming together and unveiling a package of smart, targeted, thoughtful modernization amendments to the Endangered Species Act of 1973. My friend and Democratic Caucus Member from Oregon Kurt Schrader even came onboard to cosponsor the LOCAL and WHOLE Acts - and he tells me he's reviewing the other bills closely to see how they read to him. I challenge all Members, advocacy and industry groups and media observers to follow Rep. Schrader's lead and look closely at what we've proposed here, to consider carefully the testimony of millions of Americans as to the longstanding and fixable failures of the ESA to conserve species and balance interests appropriately - to do all of that, and then tell me you can't come onboard with our effort." – Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar
“IPAA applauds Congressman Biggs for his introduction of the LIST Act which would restore the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service toward its mission of helping species on the brink of extinction. Efforts to delist species are not adequately balanced with petitions to list. Species seem too easily to find their way into the protective fold of the ESA with no plan or pathway for delisting. For example, IPAA has been actively involved in a coalition to delist the American Burying Beetle, including engagement on a petition to delist the species. The 12-month finding was due on August 8, 2016. Almost two years later with no decision made, this species remains listed as endangered, despite scientific evidence to the contrary.” – Samantha McDonald, Independent Petroleum Association of America
“After nearly four decades in existence, species recovery under the ESA has been dismal. In fact, only 3 percent of identified species have been successfully delisted in that time. Furthermore, the protections for 1,661 domestic species come at a cost of $1.47 billion annually (FY 2016). These statistics indicate the critical need for meaningful reforms the ESA. Arizona is currently home to 37 animal species listed as threatened or endangered. Given the nature of farming and ranching, many of these species impact working lands. Farmers and ranchers want to do their part to help preserve listed species and have a vested interest in implementing sustainable conservation efforts on their land. However, the ESA in its current form fails to provide meaningful land owner incentives for species conservation and instead imposes regulatory burdens that result in land use restrictions.” – Arizona Farm Bureau Federation