Ranchers Applaud Introduction of ESA Reform Bill
WASHINGTON - Efforts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA) – a priority issue for U.S. ranchers – have been revived in the 110th Congress thanks to a bill that seeks to strengthen species recovery while providing for local community input.
Senators Larry Craig (R-Idaho) and Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.), who both serve on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, introduced the Endangered Species Reform Act of 2007 (S.658) on February 16.
Members of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC) have identified the issue as a top priority for ranchers and landowners for many years.
“One of the key concerns we hear from our members is that they want more say in the listing and recovery process,” says Jeff Eisenberg, NCBA’s director of federal lands and executive director of the PLC. “Since ranchers are out on the land every day, they can offer a first-hand account of how a species is being managed and recovered.”
For ranchers, the bill aims to put in place a number of much-needed reforms including:
· Giving impacted states a larger voice in the listing process by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to solicit assessments from those states.
· Allowing for more public comment opportunities by requiring a minimum of two hearings in each of the affected states.
· Requiring advocacy groups that petition for an ESA listing to provide information on the species that has been tested in the field, peer reviewed and published by a scientific source. Petitioners must also provide the historical and current range and distribution of the species in addition to the status and trends of all populations of that species.
· Allowing the Interior Secretary to use data observed by land owners on the status of that species.
· Requiring the Interior Secretary to prepare a recovery plan upon the proposal to list a species and for the Secretary to change the status of a species or remove the species from the list upon meeting those criteria.
“This bill provides landowners, states and federal agencies with the necessary tools to properly list and manage species under ESA,” says Eisenberg. “Additionally, the bill establishes safeguards against advocacy groups who pursue ESA without solid science.”
Senators Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), and Wayne Allard (R-Colo.) are all cosponsors of the legislation. The bill has been reported to the Environment and Public Works Committee where it awaits further action.
“Ranchers are grateful to these Senators for putting forth common-sense ESA reform legislation,” says Eisenberg. “This action has set the stage for discussions on ESA reform in the new Congress, and we’re looking forward to participating in this dialogue.”