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Endangered Species Act (ESA)
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Endangered Species Act (ESA)

The Issue

The Species Preservation Act of 1966 provided a means for listing and protecting native animal species.

The Endangered Species Act passed in 1973 resulted in:

  • Definitions of "endangered” and "threatened”
  • The inclusion of plants and invertebrates
  • A broad "take” prohibition
  • Matching funds available to states

Significant amendments were made in 1978, 1982, and 1988.The Act now gives federal agencies sweeping powers for removing productive forestlands from economic uses by declaring land essential for the habitat of threatened and endangered species.

Legislative Actions in the 114th Congress

Both the Senate and House are focusing on ESA reform and are working on new strategies aimed at reforming the law and making specific changes to benefit the people that use the land imperiled species call home.

In the House, Chairman of the House Natural Resources, Cong., Rob Bishop (R-UT), has stated that focus will be on litigation and transparency, as well as boots on the ground conservation at the state and local level, where conservation awareness and expertise is at an all-time high.

The House has also dealt with the ESA outside of the usual committee of jurisdiction, by passing an annual defense bill that would force the FWS to remove protections for the lesser prairie chicken and the American burying beetle. It would also delay for at least 10 years a listing decision for the greater sage grouse, which has become a rallying point for both supporters and opponents of the law.

In the Senate, a hearing was held in May that focused on nine bills that aimed to remove some species protections’, change the way the agency considers scientific studies or other tweaks.

Committee Actions

Recent focus of the committee has been on EPA’s lack of consultation with the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Army Corps of Engineers in regards to the WOTUS and Clean Power Plant rules and how they impact endangered species. A hearing was held on July 29th titled, Lack of ESA Consultation During Power Plant Rule Process: EPA’s apparent failure to initiate consultation with the FWS on the rules’ impacts on endangered and threatened species, as required by section 7 of the ESA.

Regulatory Actions: On May 18, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced a proposed rule that would require petitioners to solicit information from relevant state wildlife agencies prior to submitting a petition to the Services, to include any such information provided by the states in the petition. If the state responds within 30 days with data, such as population counts or comments, these would need to be included with the petition when it’s sent to the federal FWS. Currently, petitioners don’t need to provide any data, and state input comes later in the process, such as during the 12-month review that starts if the federal agency finds that listing a species might be warranted.

The proposal also would include changes to make the listing process more transparent to the public, more reflective of science and more responsive to voluntary conservation efforts. It also would do away with petitions for multiple species.








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