Congressman Biggs' Statement for the "List Act of 2018"
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House Natural Resources Committee held a legislative hearing on the Western Caucus’s Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) Modernization Package. The package consists of nine bills, including H.R. 6356 – the LIST Act of 2018, introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs. Congressman Biggs submitted the following statement for the record:
I thank Chairman Rob Bishop and Ranking Member Raul Grijalva for holding this important legislative hearing. I am honored to join Western Caucus Chairman Paul Gosar and colleagues in introducing the Western Caucus ESA Modernization package. This package includes my bill, the LIST Act of 2018, which makes a number of improvements to bring the ESA into the 21st century.
The LIST Act authorizes the Secretary of the Interior to de-list species from the endangered species list when he receives an objective, measurable, and scientific study demonstrating a species has recovered; and penalizes those who intentionally submit false or fraudulent data in order to cause a species listing. The Act does not eliminate protections for truly endangered species. Rather, these actions will allow the federal government to focus resources towards protecting species that actually need it.
The ESA is one of the most intrusive federal policies on western states. Over the last four decades, ESA regulations, including the listing of endangered species, have done more to infringe on private property and states’ rights than they have to recover endangered species. The ESA was created to protect threatened species and their habitats; however, biased science and de-listing regulations are often used to harm western priorities instead of protecting endangered species.
Hundreds of species are listed as endangered under the ESA, including the infamous Gray Wolf. Scientific data shows that this species has fully recovered and no longer needs federal protection, but inexplicably remains on the list. This listing allows unelected federal bureaucrats, in the name of protecting the Gray Wolf, to limit the use of public lands. It also prevents farmers and ranchers from protecting their land and livestock from these predators.
ESA listings are meant to give short-term support for species recovery; it is not supposed to turn into a permanent classification. Current regulations make it much easier for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list new species as endangered instead of examining the current list for potential removal. Over the last 45 years, less than two percent of the total species listed have eventually been delisted – 42 distinct species out of 2386 to be exact. Unfortunately, several of the bureaucratic processes for de-listing recovered species have broken down or failed entirely.
Listing a species is not insignificant. These classifications impose costly requirements on private landowners and federal agencies, and limitations on private and public project proposals.
Radical environmental groups exploit false or fraudulent data in order to cause a species to be listed as endangered. Oftentimes, newly-discovered or poorly-understood species are quickly listed and later turn out to be ecologically abundant. This leads to unnecessary costs and burdens for everyone impacted by the listing.
The Arizona Farm Bureau, which is headquartered in my district, warns that “as the law is written today, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is forced to rely on existing data however faulty it might be, and petitioners know this and use the lack of scientific evidence to force listings.”
ESA regulations not only harm westerners, but Americans across the country. Mr. Chairman, we have an opportunity to make a significant change by cutting job-killing regulations and passing legislation to fix their unintended consequences. The Western Caucus ESA modernization package is long overdue and will help millions of Americans around the country by protecting local interests – not special interests.
Congressman Andy Biggs is a first-term Representative from Arizona’s Fifth Congressional District, representing parts of Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, and Queen Creek. Congressman Biggs is a member of the House Judiciary and Science, Space, and Technology committees, and is the chairman of the Environment Subcommittee. He lives with his wife, Cindy, in Gilbert.