U.S. Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY) speaks to members of the media Alex Wong/GettyImagesNews
U.S. Sen. John Barrasso

Barrasso's Endangered Species Act language to have July 17 hearing

Farm Bureau says Barrasso's discussion draft restores 'common sense,' Union of Concerned Scientists says it is 'purely a political maneuver.'

Wyoming Republican Sen. John Barrasso introduced a discussion draft of the Endangered Species Act that elevates the role of states, increases transparency and prioritizes resources.

“When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough,” said Barrasso, chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. “We must do more than just keep listed species on life support - we need to see them recovered. This draft legislation will increase state and local input and improve transparency in the listing process. It will promote the recovery of species and allow local economies to flourish. I have worked closely with the bipartisan Western Governors’ Association to draft a bill that works for endangered species and people alike.”

The Western Governors’ Association includes provisions inspired by the association’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative.

“The Western Governors’ Association appreciates the chairman’s willingness to productively engage with governors, and that the chairman has approached this polarizing topic in an inclusive, thoughtful manner,” the WGA wrote. “The proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues.”

The WGA represents the governors of the 19 western state and three U.S. territories in the Pacific.

What is the Endangered Species Act?

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to protect imperiled species and the habitats on which they rely.

What does Barrasso’s draft do?

The 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 implementation of the act; and
  • Reauthorize the ESA for the first time since its funding authorization expired in 1992. 

What are others saying about the legislation?

“The ESA, despite the good intentions it was built on, has failed in recovering endangered wildlife,” said American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall. “Instead, it has threatened our ability to make productive use of the land. Perhaps the only ‘species’ that have benefited from the ESA have been lawyers and special interest groups. These measures will restore common sense to a regulatory regime that has gone unchecked and grown out of control. ESA reform is long overdue.”

More than 60 organizations, association, corporations and government entities sent letters in favor of Barrasso’s efforts, but environmental and conservation organizations condemn the bill as “anti-science.” – Powell Tribune

“The Endangered Species Act is saving countless iconic American species from the threat of extinction because it is grounded in science,” said Michael Halpern, deputy director of the Center for Science and Democracy at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "Sen. Barrasso’s proposal puts these protections at risk by sabotaging the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act and putting onerous bureaucratic hurdles in the way of efforts to protect imperiled plants and animals. This is purely a political maneuver that would make the law far less effective and could give state politicians a virtual veto over science-based conservation efforts.”

Is a hearing scheduled on the bill?

Yes, a hearing is scheduled for 9:45 a.m. July 17 in Room 406 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building.

Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead will testify before the committee. – Billings Gazette 

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