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Newhouse Leads Call to Modernize ESA

January 31, 2020
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Tuesday, January 28, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA) hosted an hour-long Special Order in the House of Representatives to discuss the legislative efforts of the Congressional Western Caucus to strengthen and modernize the Endangered Species Act.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) has not been changed or improved in 47 years. Despite being signed into law with the worthwhile goal of protecting and revitalizing endangered and threatened animals and wildlife, the ESA has earned a successful recovery rate of only 3%, proving to be a staggering failure to protect the very species it was intended to aid. 

The Congressional Western Caucus recently unveiled a package of bills introduced by Members from across the rural West and beyond to strengthen the ESA. The bills reflect the intention to bring the arcane law into the 21st Century, aiming to create a more comprehensive and streamlined approach to support species recovery while ensuring our communities are not burdened by overregulation. Click here to learn more about the Western Caucus plan.

Rep. Newhouse led his colleagues in a discussion about the legislative package, how the ESA has failed to protect species and has negatively impacted local communities, and the important steps being taken by the Administration to increase transparency and effectiveness of the law.

Click here to watch Rep. Newhouse’s opening remarks.

“We should not tie our hands when it comes to species recovery. Using the best available science, considering all ongoing conservation measures, streamlining the process for listing decisions, and empowering state and local efforts creates a comprehensive approach to advance species recovery will fulfill the true intent of the ESA,” said Rep. Newhouse (R-WA).

Rep. Newhouse introduced the WHOLE Act to ensure that all conservation measures are considered when federal decisions impacting ESA-listed species are being made. The bill aims to incentivize private investment in species recovery, streamline federal decision-making, and promote comprehensive efforts of states.

Click here to watch Rep. Newhouse’s closing remarks.

See below for remarks and highlights from participating Members:

“We must put commonsense guardrails on the ESA. We must restore it to its original purpose of recovering species – not serving as a tool for frivolous lawsuits from extreme special interest groups that work to shut down critical projects in our state,” said Rep. Gianforte (R-MT). “We can and must modernize the ESA to work better, and the Western Caucus has offered a path forward.”

Rep. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) introduced the LIST Act, a straightforward, science-based tool that equips the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service with the ability to promptly act on objective facts regarding listing decisions. Click here to watch Rep. Gianforte’s remarks.

 “Only about 3% of the species come out of the Endangered Species Act. By any other measure, that would be complete failure. That’s why we need these reforms. That’s why we need these revisions,” said Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO). “Nowhere is the pain of the Endangered Species Act regulations – those burdens are felt no greater place than local communities, and that’s why we have the EMPOWERS Act.”

Rep. Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced the EMPOWERS Act to ensure states have a role in the consultation needed for listing decisions. States play an important part in determining conservation measures that are best fitted for their communities in order to achieve successful outcomes for species. Click here to watch Rep. Smith’s remarks.

“We should do everything possible to be able to grant the Fish & Wildlife Service the ability to be able to better protect at-risk or endangered species, and I believe this can be done by utilizing local and state officials in a greater capacity,” said Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO). “Much of that legwork doesn’t have to be done at the federal level and can instead by taken over by landowners who are out on the ground every day working their land for farming, ranching, and for other purposes.”

Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) introduced the LOCAL Act to encourage and incentivize voluntary conservation efforts. Species Recovery and Habitat Recovery agreements, private property conservation grants, and habitat conservation loan programs for state and local governments will save money and resources while boosting conservation. Click here to watch Rep. Tipton’s remarks.

 “If only 3% of patients admitted to a hospital walked out healthy, that hospital would be shut down immediately. This rate of ineptitude is not sustainable,” said Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ). “The sponsoring Members of these bills come from nearly every geographic corner of the United States. These Members are taking constituent-driven initiatives and working to make them law. The need for a package like this is obvious.”

Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) serves as Chairman of the Congressional Western Caucus and has spearheaded the effort to strengthen and modernize the ESA. He introduced the Bring the ESA Into the 21st Century Act to improve predictability for species listings and critical habitat designations while leveling the playing field by applying the same standards for listing and delisting a species. Click here to watch Chairman Gosar’s remarks.

 “Over time, regulations can get out-of-control,” said Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA). “The package of reforms that are being talked about and the bills that are being offered aren’t here to gut the Endangered Species Act – they’re to bring back that course correction that we’re looking for. Though it was signed 40 years ago, it is our job to constantly monitor and make sure it’s working.”

Rep. Doug LaMalfa (R-CA) has cosponsored many of the bills in the Western Caucus legislative package, has led the House in finding solutions to conservation challenges across the country, and has been a vocal proponent of modernizing the ESA. Click here to watch Rep. LaMalfa’s remarks.

 “If the success of the ESA was a movie, it would get a 0.0 Rotten Tomatoes score,” said Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX). “It would be a horror story that surpasses Hannibal Lecter, Freddie Krueger, and Jason. It would be a story about how a misused ESA is a threat to our national security and global freedom and guarantees more greenhouse gases plaguing our world.”

Rep. Pete Olson (R-TX) introduced the Listing Reform Act to ensure the economic effects of listening decisions are analyzed. The bill aims to combat bureaucratic delays and complications that keep American communities from their full potential, while maintaining protections for species. Click here to watch Rep. Olson’s remarks.

 “Land management and species management are critically important issues in this country but especially so in the West. Nationwide, the federal government owns 1 out of every 3 acres, but when you go to the West it’s 1 out of every 2 acres,” said Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ). “The American Sovereignty and Species Protection Act, the LIST Act, and all of the other ESA modernization efforts we have talked about today in this package of bills will help us to scale back bureaucratic overreach and still that critically endangered species are protected. Both aims are achievable.”

Rep. Andy Biggs (R-AZ) introduced the American Sovereignty and Species Protection Act to ensure domestic investment in endangered species  based on results-driven science – instead of investment in foreign countries where we have no control over conservation laws. Click here to watch Rep. Biggs’ remarks.

 “Everyone agrees that it is important to protect these species that are endangered,” said Ralph Norman (R-SC). “But far too often, it comes at the expense of the constitutional right of landowners… I really hope that all my colleagues can come together to support this important legislation to protect our rights and our species, but more importantly, come together to update an antiquated law that is the Endangered Species Act.”

Rep. Ralph Norman (R-SC) introduced the Property Rights Protection Act to protect farmers, ranchers, and landowners from severe restrictions stemming from the designation of a “critical habitat” on private property by the federal government. Instead of burdensome regulation, the bill aims to incentivize landowners to be active participants in conservation efforts for threatened species. Click here to watch Rep. Norman’s remarks.

“I thought the Endangered Species Act was all about trying to save endangered species, but I got an education,” said Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX). “I found out that is not what the Endangered Species Act was about because if it was just about saving endangered species, we would have saved a lot more than 3%.”

Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) introduced the SAVES Act to empower states to enhance conservation efforts for diverse species populations. Click here to watch Rep. Gohmert’s remarks.