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House Committee Approves Major ESA Changes

by Bill Greene SCI Dep. Dir., Govt. Affairs

Oct 06, 2017

A U.S. House of Representatives committee has approved changes in the Endangered Species Act that echo recommendations made by Safari Club International members during SCI’s Lobby Day this past May. SCI lobbying efforts work.

The House Natural Resources Committee on Oct. 4 voted in favor of an amended version of the Save America’s Vulnerable and Endangered Species Act, or “SAVES Act,” introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX).

“This is an important step for SCI and all hunters,” said SCI President Paul Babaz. “It is but a part of many efforts to rein-in the crippling government overreach that has occurred since the ESA was enacted four decades ago.”

If passed by Congress and signed into law by the president, the SAVES Act would remove the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s authority to list as threatened or endangered species that are not native to the United States. In other words, the SAVES Act would limit the FWS’s listing authority to domestic species.

This bill brings to life a key component of SCI members’ message to their Senators and Representatives during Lobby Day this year – namely that the FWS must not use the ESA to interfere with range countries’ efforts in other parts of the world to conserve and manage their wildlife through sustainable use programs.

The SAVES Act was one of several ESA-modernization bills approved by the House Natural Resources Committee Oct. 4. The committee marked up and approved four other bills designed to eliminate flaws in the 1973 ESA.

Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) noted that while the ESA was created with “noble intent,” the law includes “fatal design flaws that inhibit greater success and handicap state-led, science-based recovery strategies. These flaws must be addressed and the law must be modernized.

“This slate of bills provides a framework for this discussion that we will build upon in coordination with the Senate, Trump administration, states and all interested stakeholders,” he explained.           

In practice, the ESA suffers from many flaws and ESA decisions frequently result in long and costly litigation. Since the ESA’s enactment, more than 1,500 species have been listed as “endangered” or “threatened,” yet only 23 have been delisted. This translates into a recovery rate of just one percent, even though many listed species have rebounded.           

The Committee earlier this year detailed how endless ESA litigation curtails species recovery, diverts the limited resources of the FWS away from recovery and costs American taxpayers millions of dollars to defend “sue and settle” legal tactics pushed by environmental and anti-hunting groups.           

SCI has led or assisted ESA litigation efforts over many years to help support the delisting of species that have recovered and meet ESA requirements for the removal of federal protection.  Hunters, wildlife conservationists and State wildlife managers have all played significant roles in recovery efforts, but those efforts frequently have been defeated, due to ambiguities or flaws in the wording of the ESA.

The other bills marked up and approved by the House Resources Committee Oct. 4 include provisions that would provide greater transparency of data used to make ESA listing decisions, delist wolf populations, allow for the consideration of economic factors in making listing decisions and place species protection ahead of endless litigation.

Chairman Bishop, Rep. Gohmert and the other sponsors of the ESA reform bills are to be commended. They include Representatives Colin Peterson (D-MN), Bill Huizenga (R-MI), Pete Olson (R-TX) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

Details of the Committee’s legislative markup are linked here.