The Endangered Species Act has been the law of the land for more than 40 years. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website, the act was intended to highlight the “esthetic, ecological, educational, recreational, and scientific value to our Nation and its people.” But Wyoming Senator John Barrasso says it needs updating.
“The Endangered Species Act was written, created and adopted for all the right reasons and there’s just too much sand in the gears right now.”
Barrasso says the Act creates too many hoops and hurdles.
“We know that for every 100 species that have been added to the list only three have recovered enough to get off. So we need when something goes on the list that there’s a recovery plan in place and we know how to measure success, and then when you get there it comes off the list.”
Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee have approved five bills to overhaul the Endangered Species Act. They range from forcing cost reviews to be a part of the listing process to capping the fees attorneys can charge for taking up the cases. Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney says the effort is important.
The point has to be to get them off the list. So I think we have to look at how do you empower the states more, how we can make sure there’s an assessment of the economic cost of the listing and what we can do to help limit litigation.”
Cheney also wants to stop the mass listings – where numerous animals in a region are protected at once.
“We need to prevent groups from being able to request listings of sort of a mass of species all at once – I think we need to talk about one species at a time.”
But Democrats, such as New Mexico’s Tom Udall say the GOP effort is short sighted.
“The big discussion has to include all the issues and I don’t ever see that happening. I normally see them targeting something very very narrow and wanting to change it.”
Udall says he hasn’t seen that yet, but as the train passed by us in the basement of the Capitol, he explains that for him to get on board with the effort, he wants more protections for species, land, and regions.
“Endangered Species is about ecosystems and the health of ecosystems and you have to approach it that way. So as soon as they’re willing to sit down and really talk about how do we look at what has happened since the Endangered Species Act passed and how to we encourage and support healthy ecosystems I’m happy to participate in the conversation.”
Montana Democratic Senator Jon Tester hasn’t seen the GOP bills either but says he’s open to changes
“Could it use modification? Sure, but I don’t know what those are off the top of my head. We sure need to take a look at it. But if the idea is to roll it back. I just don’t think that’s a positive thing, because otherwise, it will become the endangered species.”
But Barrasso says the current iteration of the Endangered Species Act is hampering communities and stifling their economies.
“Something is wrong here because of the impact all of these new listings on jobs, on the economy and the people of their communities. So, you need to update and modernize in a way that actually helps these species recover.”
While the effort to overhaul the Endangered Species Act has broad GOP support in the House, it’s unclear if it can garner the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate.