Lawmakers consider legislation to modernize and reform the Endangered Species Act

Farmers and ranchers across the country often face a balancing act of productivity and endangered species management.

Senate lawmakers consider a set of amendments to the Endangered Species Act to modernize and reform the legislation. One would prevent a federal court from overturning a delisting decision during a five year review period.

Senator John Barrasso states, “Under my legislation a recovered species is still protected during that five year post-delisting monitoring period. They’re still protected by state regulations and a state management plan and by the Secretary’s authority to relist the species if its condition deteriorates.”

The Senator says that other provisions of his bill have more support from stakeholders and environmental protection groups.

“They include the parts of the bill that reauthorize the Endangered Species Act for the first time in almost 30 years, substantially increasing the funding authorization and focusing money on recovery of species, elevating the roll of states in implementing the act, ensuring nongovernmental stakeholders have a clearer voice in recovery and in implementing planning.”

Since the ESA was signed into law, fewer than three percent of species have been delisted, a sign of failure according to Sen. Barrasso. He thinks shifting authority to the state would help, but Democrat Tom Carper of Delaware disagrees.

“For one it attempts to shift the responsibility for recovery and species management decisions to states without providing additional funding for states to fulfill those expanded roles. This is particularly troubling... because species typically only require Endangered Species Act protection when state management has failed,” Carper notes.

Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon told lawmakers that states are more efficient managers: “State involvement, state sciences is often the best, it’s certainly the most ground truth, it’s certainly most current, and with informed decisions and that estate connection and the ability for states to be involved, private land owners to be involved is absolutely essential for the success...”

Florida rancher Lisa Priddy also supports the proposal to allow states to lead recovery teams.

According to Priddy, “Allowing states to demonstrate that leadership recognizes their broad capacity to manage and provide certainty to ranchers like me who have invested in conservation activities. Further, states work with ranchers and other groups to engage in voluntary conservation efforts even outside the ESA context. These voluntary efforts provide predictability for ranchers, land manager, and regulatory authorities alike and are often the basis for longstanding partnerships.”

Priddy is a former Florida Fish and Wildlife Commissioner and says that she has seen firsthand how federal regulations can impact conservation on the state level.

President Trump updates the Endangered Species Act.

Modernizing the Endangered Species Act.