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  • Endangered Species Act legislation moving through House

    Fern Davies
    • Author: Ornithological Council

      The GOP-led House of Representatives is leading attacks on the Endangered Species Act. Get ready to contact your members of Congress.




      UPDATE 29 Sept: Another anti-ESA bill has been introduced. Read more here.

    This news and analysis are provided by the Ornithological Council, a consortium supported by 11 ornithological societies. Join or renew your membership in your ornithological society if you value the services these societies provide to you, including Ornithology Exchange and the Ornithological Council!


    UPDATE 2I SEPT: Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) has introduced S.1863, to clarify that noncommercial species found entirely within the borders of a single State are not in interstate commerce or subject to regulation under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 or any other provision of law enacted as an exercise of the power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. A lower federal court in Utah ruled in 2014 that that there was no Constitutional basis for the exercise of federal authority in such instances but that ruling was overturned by the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in March 2017. A request for a re-hearing "en banc" (a three-judge panel) was denied in August. The Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue, although John Roberts, the current Chief Justice, hinted in a dissent he wrote when he was a lower court judge that a species found in only one state does not affect interstate commerce.


    Editorial note: Clearly, he's not a birder and doesn't know that thousands of people travel across the country to see rarities or species that occur in only one state.


    On 12 Sept 2017, the House Natural Resources Committee marked up and advanced five bills that would weaken the Endangered Species Act.


    House Chair Rob Bishop (R-UT) has said he would like to eliminate the ESA entirely. The bills considered last week are just a start.


    H.R. 717 (The Listing Reform Act) introduced by Rep. Pete Olson (R-Texas) would require consideration of the economic costs of protecting an animal or plant on the endangered species list and remove all deadlines for completing the listing process.


    H.R. 1274 (the State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act), introduced by Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Wash.) would deem any information submitted by a state or local government to qualify as “best available” science even if inaccurate, out-of-date, fraudulent, incomplete, or otherwise faulty, and without any merit review.


    H.R. 3131 (the Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act), introduced by Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) would discourage citizen enforcement and participation in the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. It would award attorneys fees to the prevailing party, contrary to the general rule in the United States that each party pays its own attorneys fees, regardless of outcome.


    H.R. 2603 (the Saving America's Endangered Species or SAVES Act), introduced by Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) would bar ESA protection for non-native species that are present in the U.S.


    H.R. 424 (the Gray Wolf State Management Act), introduced by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) would reinstate a 2011 decision by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to remove federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states. In 2017 a federal appellate court upheld a decision by a district court judge that the delisting decision was legally flawed and affirmed that wolves still needed protection. The legislation would invalidate these two court opinions and preclude all judicial review into the future.


    The Natural Resources Committee also considered H.R. 3668, the “SHARE Act,” which would also end federal protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes states, create an enormous loophole for polar bear trophy hunting and restrict the ability of the EPA to address lead pollution from fishing gear..


    Since January congressional Republicans have launched 50 legislative attacks against the Endangered Species Act or particular endangered species.


    To keep track of this legislation and other legislation of interest to ornithologists, visit the Ornithological Council legislative database.

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