Legislation aimed at reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA) passed through the House Committee on Natural Resources Wednesday and now waits for consideration in front of the House.
Five bills, four sponsored by Republicans and one sponsored by a Democrat, have drawn heavy criticism from environmentalists, who say the legislation, if made law, will cause many endangered species to die out.
“This legislative onslaught is a brutal, blatant effort to cripple the Endangered Species Act,” Center for Biological Diversity government affairs director Brett Hartl said in a statement Wednesday. “The only winners would be special interests that put profits ahead of our nation’s most cherished wildlife.”
GOP Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas and Democrat Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota sponsored bills that passed through committee with bipartisan support.
The SAVES Act, sponsored by Gohmert, removes all species not native to the United States from listing under the ESA.
Peterson’s bill, the Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017, would delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes region and keep gray wolves in Wyoming under state management, ending years of court interference and litigation by environmental groups.
The other three bills passed by straight party-line votes were brought by GOP Reps. Bill Huizenga of Michigan, Dan Newhouse of Washington, and Pete Olson of Texas.
Huizenga’s Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act places a cap on how much a party suing the federal government over the ESA can collect in attorney fees, as well as requiring the litigants win the suit before fees can be collected.
“ESA’s fee-shifting provision places no cap on hourly attorneys’ fees and does not require a litigant to ‘prevail’ in order to recover attorneys’ fees,” the bill says.
Newhouse sponsored the State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act, which aims at increasing federal cooperation with state and local communities while ensuring that local and state data are considered part of “the best available scientific and commercial data” when reviewing a species.
The Listing Reform Act, sponsored by Olson, reforms ESA listing procedures to consider the economic impacts of listing a species. It also grants federal agencies more flexibility to prioritize listing decisions and delist recovered species. The bill also aims to reduce ESA related litigation by removing a 12-month deadline federal agencies currently have to act on petitions to list species.
“We must protect our endangered species, but we need to do it in a smart way. The Endangered Species Act was enacted to protect truly endangered species, not serve as a political weapon for extreme environmentalists,” Olson said in a statement on bills’ passage through committee. “Protecting endangered species can and should be done in a common sense way.”
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