July 19, 2018

Interior proposes ESA reforms recommended by PLF

By Jonathan Wood Attorney

This afternoon, the Department of Interior proposed several reforms to the way it implements the Endangered Species Act. Chief among them is to eliminate prospectively a regulation that imposes the same burdensome regulations on endangered and threatened species, despite the very different prospects they face. As longtime followers may recall, PLF filed two rulemaking petitions on behalf of the National Federation of Independent Businesses and the Washington Cattlemen’s Association, urging this change.

If finalized, this reform would significantly benefit both property owners and endangered species. By tailoring regulations to the threats species face, this reform would align the incentives of landowners with the interests of species. It will also encourage states, property owners, and conservationists to collaborate on innovative recovery efforts, without the conflict that has typified past implementation of the statute. For 45 years, the Endangered Species Act has successfully prevented species extinction but failed to promote recovery, with less than 3% of listed species having recovered. This reform might finally enable the achievement of both goals.

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Kansas Natural Resource Coalition v. Department of Interior

A buffalo rancher by trade, Ken Klemm also uses his 4,000-acre ranch in Kansas for conservation efforts. In fact, Klemm works with the Kansas Natural Resource Coalition (KNRC) to implement a conservation plan for the lesser prairie chicken. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service considers such local collaboration for determining endangered listings under its 2003 rule called the Policy for Evaluating Conservation Efforts When Making Listing Decisions (PECE Rule). Unfortunately, the rule is not lawfully in effect because the Service never submitted the PECE Rule to Congress as required by the Congressional Review Act (CRA). On behalf of KNRC, PLF has filed a lawsuit demanding that the Service submit its rule to Congress so it can legally take effect and allow good conservation work to continue.

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