Thursday, June 09, 2016

ESA Delisting Process is Failing According to Testimony

Witnesses at a U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing in April testified the Endangered Species Act (ESA) lacks a proper process for delisting species, which they say results in many species remaining on the Endangered Species List when they do not belong there. There are currently 2,258 species protected under ESA, and only 63 have been delisted since the law’s enactment in 1973. Joel Bousman, the vice president of the Western Interstate Region of the National Association of Counties, testified at the hearing, saying, “When a species is put on the Endangered Species Act list, it’s a bit like checking into the Hotel California. You can check out anytime you like, but you can never leave.” Two reasons cited for the ESA’s poor track record of delisting species by several of those testifying were strict deadlines for making listing decisions and ESA’s citizen-suit provisions. Maryland attorney Lowell E. Baier testified, “[ESA’s] citizen-suit provision … has made federal courts a venue where extreme organizations … can twist the Endangered Species Act and bend the federal government to their will. Part of their agenda is to always increase the number of species and amount of land protected under the Endangered Species Act, and so they have used the courts to oppose delisting of recovered species.” Ron Arnold, executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, says ESA’s citizen-suit provisions have been used as part of a backdoor effort to control land use. “Contrary to what people may think, the ESA has nothing to do with animals,” said Arnold. “Instead, it is a land-use control bill that declares if you disturb the habitat of an ESA-listed animal, you can get one year in jail and a $50,000 fine for every violation. “The whole thing boils down to using the ESA’s regulatory power to control industry,” said Arnold. “Delisting harms anyone who gets foundation grants to expand the ESA’s reach, so it’s in their interest to make sure no species ever gets delisted from the ESA.” Wyoming rancher and attorney Karen Budd-Falen focused in her testimony on how lawsuits force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to focus their attention on listing decisions and deemphasize delisting...more

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