Endangered Species Act Changes Expected Soon In Congress

Action Deadline June 20, 2005

The Resources Committee is in the final stages of deciding what provisions will go into a draft bill for Congress to consider how to update and modernize the ESA. You still have time to make a difference.

Your personal involvement is easy and critical. See below.

The Resources Committee will come out with a bill sometime soon. Probably within the next month or two. From there the ESA bill will begin a long and difficult road through the Resources Committee and on to the House of Representatives.

If it passes out of the House, it will then begin a similar difficult trip through the Senate. That is likely going to be more difficult than the House.

The provisions you want in the bill are not going to get there unless you fight for them. Whining and moaning that one or another particular provision we really want is not there will get us nowhere. All of us must take action now.

The Resources Committee will pass what is possible. You must help make it possible.

If enough people get excited and fight for certain provisions, then they may well survive the process. If you lay back and put the load on your Congressman or the members of the Resources Committee, you’re likely to lose in the end.

Compensation is a critical issue to most of us who believe the ESA must be fixed so it can actually recover species. At this point it is a failure having helped recover only 10 out of 1300 species.

Landowners must be made to be allies of the process of recovering species. They must not have to do it with a gun to their heads.

Voluntary and incentive based language is critical here. And landowners must be compensated when they take land out of production to benefit a species.

Some will oppose these changes. They will be very aggressively opposed by others.

How hard you fight through your letters, phone calls, faxes and e-mails to your Congressman and the Resources Committee will determine whether the provisions you support survive.

Action Items:

  1. Property Rights: The Act should require compensation for regulatory takings. Federal agencies should be subject to a statutorily directed preference for using voluntary, un-coerced contracts with property owners for a temporary lease or agreement to manage land for the benefit of a listed species. A deal is a deal, the government should be bound by any agreement it makes with a landowner.
  2. Incentives: Use Voluntary, Contractual, Compensated Habitat Management that would increase the quality of wildlife habitat while lessening the conservation disincentives contained in current law. Exempt a property owner from land use regulation when his management practices create or maintain habitat for endangered species. Create an ESA version of the CRP and require a substantial part of funding go to the ESA/CRP program.
  3. Make Safe Harbor agreements user friendly and truly safe.
  4. The definition of "take" should be changed to require a direct and proximate connection between the action and the loss of a specific individual member of a listed species.
  5. Science: The definition of species should incorporate new scientific information on the genetic make-up of species. Require independent peer review of the science used in listing.
  6. Require Independent Scientific Review, what some have called “sound science.”
  7. Conservation of subspecies and distinct populations should be actively promoted but these categories should not be covered by the regulatory parts of the Act. Species that are beneficial or unique should be given priority.
  8. Economic Considerations: Base listing decisions on science, but subject any restrictions to consideration of economic and social factors. Require ECONOMIC IMPACT ANALYSES.
  9. A sunset provision should be added to ESA so the act expires after 5 years unless re-authorized. Require species to be re-listed or dropped from the list after 10 years.
  10. Requiring completion or amendment of recovery plans before designating critical habitat.
  11. Require that any listing or critical habitat designations be based on actual verified field data demonstrating the presence of the species and not based on scientific "hypothesis" that the species may one day be present.
  12. Amend the definition of critical habitat to require that FWS find the area itself is essential to the conservation of the species and requires special management measures based on actual verifiable field data and not simply because FWS has found that the species Primary Constituent Elements (PCEs) are present.
  13. Require FWS to utilize data developed by State, local and regional wildlife agencies in making Critical Habitat and listing decisions.
  14. Require the FWS to work on recovery not just listing more species.
  15. Require regionally even enforcement. Fairy shrimp-like crustaceans, for example, occur in eastern metropolitan areas and although they are more endangered than California fairy shrimp, the FWS refuses to list them.
  16. Federalism. The general primacy of state authority over wildlife should recognized in ESA.
  17. Reimburse agencies for ESA costs from the FWS budget.
  18. Place restrictions on introduced, experimental populations.
  19. Expedite permits. Secretary must issue or deny within 90 days.
  20. Exemptions for human health and safety and permitted activities.
  21. Add transparency, openness and privacy protection provisions.
  22. Consider, analyze and test alternative recovery strategies.
  23. Include landowners in decision-making. 24. Have a no-net-loss of private property provision.
  24. Have a no-net-loss of private property provision.

Reminder –Deadline—Monday, June 20th. Get your testimony in the official hearing record of the Resources Committee. Send your filled out Testimony Questionnaires to the American Land Rights Association at PO Box 400, Battle Ground, WA 98604. Or fax it to (360) 687-2973. You can also send them to the Resources Committee directly. The Committee information is below.

Send your priority issues list to ccushman@landrights.org

You can also send your send your testimony to:
Resources Committee FAX: (202) 225-5929
E-mail: resources.committee@mail.house.gov
Website: http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/
Need more information -- phone: (360) 687-3087

Cushman, Charles. "Endangered Species Act Changes Expected Soon In Congress" 10 June 2005.

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