Draft Legislation Seeks To Overhaul Endangered Species Act

Jul 2, 2018

Screenshot of a passage Sen. Barrasso's proposed draft legislation
Credit Environment and Public Works Committee

U.S. Senator John Barrasso is leading an effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The proposed draft legislation would give states more authority over endangered species.

In a press release, Barrasso explained: "when it comes to the Endangered Species Act, the status quo is not good enough." He’s argued in the past that too few plants and animals are being removed from the endangered species list and it needs to be modernized. There have been two hearings within the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works Committee to discuss what modernization would look like, with testimony from state officials, individuals, and environmental groups.

Barrasso’s draft bill would reduce the role of the federal government and put most of the authority over species’ conservation into state hands. That would include creating specific recovery plans and teams. It would also favor consideration of state data over other available scientific data.

Noah Greenwald, Endangered Species Director with the Center for Biological Diversity, said this would gut the ESA which was put in place because states weren’t doing enough.

"Many states are just fundamentally opposed to protecting endangered species... Most states don’t have strong laws for protecting species, they also typically don’t have the funding necessary to protect species," Greenwald said.

He added the ESA is working, but that it takes time for species to recover. He said a majority of species protected by the act are stable or improving.

"It just shows that this law is working and Senator Barrasso... his priority is not protecting endangered species. So, this bill is not designed to strengthen the endangered species act, it’s designed to gut it," he said.

The draft legislation follows several of the recommendations made within the Western Governors’ Association report. Barrasso is expected to speak more on the draft bill at a public hearing in the coming weeks.