The Ambitious Effort to Overhaul ESA

July has been a busy month for the reform of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Nine separate bills were introduced by House Western Caucus lawmakers aimed at restoring common sense to an Endangered Species Act, while Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) released the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 discussion draft that will give new powers and responsibilities for state officials to determine how animals and plants should be protected.

Senator Barrasso’s discussion draft legislation will:

  • Elevate the role of state conservation agencies in species management;
  • Increase transparency associated with carrying out conservation under the Act;
  • Prioritize available resources for species recovery;
  • Provide regulatory certainty for landowners and other stakeholders to facilitate participation in conservation and recovery activities;
  • Require that listing of any species must also include recovery goals, habitat objectives, and other criteria established by the Secretary of Interior, in consultation with impacted states, for the delisting or downlisting of the species;
  • Require that the satisfaction of such criteria must be based on the best scientific and commercial data available;
  • Enable states the opportunity to lead recovery efforts for listed species, including through a species’ recovery team;
  • Allow such a recovery team to modify a recovery goal, habitat objective, or other established criteria, by unanimous vote with the approval of the secretary of the Interior;
  • Increase federal consultation with local communities;
  • Improve transparency of information regarding the status of a listed species;
  • Create a prioritization system for addressing listing petitions, status reviews, and proposed and final determinations, based on the urgency of a species’ circumstances, conservation efforts, and available data and information so that resources can be utilized in the most effective manner;
  • Include studies on how to improve conservation efforts and to understand in greater depth the extent of resources being expended across the federal government associated with the implementation of the act; and
  • Reauthorize the ESA for the first time since its funding authorization expired in 1992.

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