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Westerman, Stauber Lead Legislation Updating, Modernizing ESA

WASHINGTON, D.C., June 16, 2022 -

Today, House Committee on Natural Resources Ranking Member Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) and U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) introduced the ESA Flexibility Act. This legislation would grant landowners leeway and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) flexibility when dealing with species listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including the northern long-eared bat.

"Protecting America's wildlife sometimes demands swift, decisive intervention to ensure we don't lose declining species populations forever," Westerman said. "However, responsible landowners shouldn't become casualties of that intervention. In the case of the northern long-eared bat, these animals are tragically susceptible to white-nose syndrome and need careful attention, but foresters, farmers, and other land managers play no role in this species decline. Congressman Stauber's ESA Flexibility Act provides USFWS the ability to tailor ESA restrictions for the species, which will protect wildlife without punishing landowners in the process. I'm proud to join him in this effort, one that has broad support from groups across the country, and look forward to seeing it signed into law."

"I’m pleased to introduce the ESA Flexibility Act today, which creates latitude for species listed as threatened or endangered," Stauber said." If we’re to build infrastructure, permit electricity transmission, mine for resources needed for everyday life, and properly manage our forests, we need commonsense habitat conservation plans that protect wildlife without harming our economy. For example, the Northern Long Eared Bat suffers from a disease through no fault of humans whatsoever. If uplisted due to this disease, the bat’s entire range, which covers most of the continental United States, would be off limits to desperately needed development. The ESA as it’s written has failed biodiversity and is instead abused by the wealthy green lobby as a cash fund for lawyers. Although my commonsense bill is a small step forward, I hope we build on this reform to make the ESA work for people and animals once again."


Under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), the Secretary of the Interior must issue regulations she deems necessary to provide for the conservation of threatened species and has the discretion in those regulations to exempt any action prohibited by section 9.A 4(d) rule provides for the conservation of a threatened species by tailoring protections to those needed to prevent further decline and facilitate recovery. 4(d) rules streamline ESA compliance for actions that result in low levels of take but do not threaten a species’ continued existence. 4(d) rules can help maintain and improve threatened species status to help prevent further declines while simultaneously reducing undue regulatory burden.

The ESA Flexibility Act would alleviate the burden on landowners impacted by the up-listing of the northern long-eared bat (as well as other endangered species that the Interior Secretary deems fit) by providing the USFWS with the ability to utilize 4(d) rules and the activities allowed under them for endangered species. In the case of the bat, this would allow landowners to continue to operate as they are now, while allowing USFWS to focus primarily on the root cause of the species' decline: white-nose syndrome.

A variety of nationwide groups endorsed the ESA Flexibility Act, many of which provided statements of strong support.

"Farm Bureau supports amending and updating the Endangered Species Act to accommodate both endangered and threatened species protection and human needs. We appreciate Rep. Stauber’s proposal to provide flexibility in the case of species proposed to be listed as endangered like the Northern Long-Eared Bat, which is impacted by a disease, not the activities of farmers and ranchers. A sensible rule spelling out activities that are not expected to contribute to species decline would allow landowners to continue their operations and the Fish and Wildlife Service to focus on the disease impacting the species." - Sam Kieffer, vice president of public policy, American Farm Bureau

"The American Loggers Council is opposed to the uplisting of the Northern Long-Eared Bat. At the same time the American Loggers Council strongly supports the ESA Flexibility Act as a tool to provide specific options for species listed as Endangered. As pertains to the uplisting of the Northern Long-Eared Bat from Threatened to Endangered, the timber industry has exercised all due diligence to avoid impacting the species during roosting periods as required under the Threatened classification. Uplisting to Endangered will impose further unnecessary restrictions that will not reduce the mortality of the species, but will negatively impact much of the U.S. Forest Management objectives of private and public land managers. The ESA has been weaponized to advance an agenda that bears little to no benefit to species listed." - American Loggers Council

"By allowing the Fish and Wildlife Service to consider a wider range of conservation measures for an endangered species, this bill will advance the goals of the Endangered Species Act without a continued burden to land and business owners. We commend Rep. Stauber for his efforts to make the Endangered Species Act a more effective tool to protect imperiled species while providing regulatory certainty to stakeholders." - U.S. Chamber of Commerce

"The decline in the northern long-eared bat (NLEB) population across its range is of concern. As the community looks for solutions, it is well documented that the primary cause for the NLEB decline is White-nose Syndrome, not sustainable forest management. As NLEB populations are declining, the amount of forestland in the 37-state range of the species has increased, along with the availability of NLEB roost trees. Forest habitat is not limiting, and well-managed forests maintain and create environments required for the survival and recovery of the NLEB. The ESA Flexibility Act is a commonsense approach that would allow forest management activities to continue if the NLEB is listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act." - Tim O'Hara, vice president of government affairs, Forest Resources Association

"IPAA is pleased to support the ESA Flexibility Act, which gives the Fish and Wildlife Service (F&WS) additional tools for managing species listing and recovery under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). In recent years, the ESA has unfortunately been used as a weapon by environmental extremists who desire to shut down industrialized activities, including oil and gas production. While IPAA and our member companies strongly believe in the preservation of unique plant and animal species, the ESA greatly needs reform as only three percent of listed species have ever recovered enough to be delisted. This common-sense approach to species listing and protection is a wonderful way to give flexibility to the F&WS as it helps address species concerns." - Mallori Miller, vice president of government relations, Independent Petroleum Association of America

"We support Congressman Stauber’s efforts to simplify the process of creating a habitat conservation plan, allowing 4(d) rules to remain in place. This is particularly relevant in the case of the northern long-eared bat, whose demise is connected to white-nose syndrome, not its habitat." - Ray Higgins, Minnesota Timber Producers Association

"The best solution to preventing federal government overreach under the Endangered Species Act is to avoid inappropriate listings in the first place – but if the Fish and Wildlife Service intends to proceed with misguided listings like the northern long-eared bat, then increased management flexibility is a necessity. Wildlife officials should be able to focus on the root cause of the bats’ decline instead of being bogged down by an unnecessary regulatory burden that makes conservation harder, and less successful, for species and land managers alike. We thank the Members for their work to ensure that regulatory red tape doesn’t impede critical conservation work." - Sigrid Johannes, associate director of federal lands, National Cattlemen's Beef Association

"Species-specific rules issued under section 4(d) of the Endangered Species Act currently allow for the targeted and customized application of the Act’s prohibitions to promote the conservation of threatened species. By extending the use of 4(d) rules to cover endangered species, the Secretaries would have increased flexibility to apply the appropriate protections to address threats to the status of these species. NESARC supports expanding the use of this important tool for more precise protection of our nation’s fish, wildlife, and plant populations." - National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition

"The National Mining Association continues to support tailored protections to improve species and habitat recovery that ensure a balanced approach is taken to promote land access and responsible resource development. We applaud Ranking Members Stauber and Westerman for introducing this legislation to allow both endangered and threatened species to have 4(d) protective rules that can be tailored for each individual species. This legislation correctly balances species conservation and recovery with the economic needs of those who live and work in these affected areas." - Rich Nolan, president and CEO, National Mining Association

National Association of Counties and National Wildlife Rehabilitators Association also support the legislation.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-225-2761

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