WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-WY), chairman of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), released the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018 discussion draft. The discussion draft reauthorizes the ESA for the first time since 1992. The discussion draft emphasizes elevating the role of states and increasing transparency in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also prioritizes resources to better meet its conservation goals and provides regulatory certainty to promote conservation and recovery activities.
“When it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough,” said Barrasso. “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.”
“I want to thank Governor Mead for his leadership on this important topic. Wyoming continues to be a leader of species protection and conservation. I will work with anyone who is committed to help the Endangered Species Act reach its conservation potential.”
Barrasso has worked with the Western Governors’ Association (WGA) in drafting the legislation. The bipartisan WGA has stated that the chairman’s discussion draft legislation is generally consistent with the WGA recommendations for modernizing the ESA and includes provisions inspired by the association’s Species Conservation and Endangered Species Act Initiative, led by Wyoming Governor Matt Mead. In a letter from the WGA, the association wrote of the draft bill:
“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 proposed bill reflects this fact and offers meaningful, bipartisan solutions to challenging species conservation issues.”
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.
Read the draft legislation here.
Read a section-by-section of the draft legislation here.
Letters Supportive of The Discussion Draft Bill, The Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2018:
On February 15, 2017, the EPW Committee held an oversight hearing titled “Modernization of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).” The hearing focused on the need to modernize the ESA in order to improve recovery rates and examining ways to lead to the eventual delisting of recovered species.
On April 26, 2017, congressional staff received a briefing from state officials titled “State Perspectives: Modernization of the Endangered Species Act.” The briefing highlighted the bipartisan efforts currently underway by the Western Governors’ Association and the Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies to identify opportunities to modernize the Endangered Species Act.
On May 10, 2017, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW) held an oversight hearing titled “Conservation, Consultation, and Capacity: State Views on the Need to Modernize the Endangered Species Act.” The purpose of this hearing was to hear from state officials on their roles and capacities in species conservation. The hearing examined state’s views on the need to strengthen and modernize the Endangered Species Act, including its effectiveness in incentivizing conservation, facilitating federal-state consultation, and ensuring adequate capacity. The hearing assessed ways to best help the Endangered Species Act meet its conservation potential.
At both hearings and the staff briefing, the EPW Committee considered the views of wide cross section of state officials, impacted individuals, environmental groups, and other stakeholders from across the country. Their feedback and testimony highlighted opportunities to modernize the ESA so it works better for species and for people, and so it better achieves its full conservation potential.