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House Republicans Introduce Endangered Species Act Legislation


WASHINGTON, D.C., October 26, 2021 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) joined U.S. Reps. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), Cliff Bentz (R-Ore.), Yvette Herrell (R-N.M.)and Ken Buck (R-Colo.)in introducing five bills to codify Trump-era Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations. This follows a Biden administration announcement that they plan to begin rolling back these essential reforms, starting tomorrow.

"Today, we are pushing back against the tone-deaf rollback of Trump-era ESA reforms with the introduction of these bills," Westerman said." 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."

"Listing decisions have enormous impacts on every aspect of our communities,Newhouse said. "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."

"The Trump administration worked hard to bring the ESA into the 21st Century and the Section 7 rule was one of the key pieces," Gosar said. "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."

"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," Bentz said. " 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."

"New Mexico has become ground zero for the Endangered Species Act (ESA)," Herrell said. "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."

"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, " Buck said. "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."

Background

Between 2019 and 2020, the Trump administration introduced five significant ESA regulations. The five bills introduced today would codify each of these regulations to give them the same force and effect of law.

  • Process for Considering Critical Habitat Exclusions (2020):This regulation stems from a Supreme Court decision and requires that the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) conduct an exclusion analysis when designating critical habitat if credible economic impacts are flagged. This would help ensure that critical habitat designations do not cripple local economies.
  • Definition of Habitat (2020):This regulation also stems from a Supreme Court decision and provides a clear definition of "habitat" under the ESA. The definition states habitat is "the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species."
  • Withdrawal of Blanket 4(d) Rule (2019):A "Blanket 4(d) rule" under the ESA allows the FWS to extend most of the prohibitions for endangered species to threatened species. This was clearly not the intent of the ESA, or else Congress would not have created the two listing categories. This regulation would align FWS with the National Marine Fisheries Service by requiring FWS to create species specific 4(d) rules to bolster protections. The FWS had admitted in the past that when they develop species-specific 4(d) rules, they have seen more benefits, including removing redundant permitting requirements and facilitating implementation of beneficial conservation actions. This rule will allow FWS to capitalize on these benefits by tailoring the regulations to the needs of threatened species. The Biden administration plans a future action to rescind this regulation and restart the practice of utilizing blanket 4(d) rules, which will be a disservice to threatened species.
  • Listing Species and Designating Critical Habitat (2019):This regulation clarified the requirement that areas where threatened or endangered species are present at the time of listing be evaluated first for critical habitat designation before unoccupied areas are considered. In addition, the regulations impose a heightened standard for unoccupied areas to be designated as critical habitat in order to prevent unnecessary economic harm. The Biden administration aims to revise this regulation in the future to largely ignore economic harm caused by critical habitat designations.
  • Interagency Cooperation/Section 7 Consultation Regulation (2019):This regulation clarifies the interagency consultation process and makes it more efficient and consistent by codifying alternative consultation mechanisms that may provide greater efficiency for how ESA consultations are conducted. It also establishes a deadline for informal consultations to provide greater certainty for federal agencies and applicants of timely decisions, without compromising conservation of ESA-listed species. Unfortunately, the Biden administration plans to revise this regulation to expand the amount of consultations under Section 7 and lengthen them, which will slow all federal actions and all actions on federal lands while wasting millions in taxpayer dollars.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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