Reforming the Endangered Species Act: Industry Groups Seek to Dismantle Our Country’s Most Purposeful Conservation Tool

  • July 27, 2015
  • News

Recognizing that, as a “consequence of economic growth and development,” many “species of fish wildlife and plants” in the United States are on the brink of extinction, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 with overwhelming bipartisan support. Today, the Endangered Species Act is supported by the majority of Americans, yet it is facing unprecedented attempts by industry groups and Congressional Republicans to undermine the law’s protections and reform its procedure.

Environmentalists’ recent efforts to protect numerous species and large swaths of habitat could be partly to blame. Over the past several years, environmental groups have inundated the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (the Service) with petitions to list multiple species under the Act and sued the Service for its failure to comply with statutory deadlines related to the listing process. The result, a 2011 settlement agreement between environmental groups and the Service, referred to as the “Listing Workplan,” prescribes specific deadlines for the Service to list over 700 species by 2018. An attempt by environmental groups and the Service to improve implementation of the Endangered Species Act, the Workplan has instead ignited industry antagonism toward environmental groups and fierce criticism over the Act itself.

Most recently, industry-backed groups have petitioned the Fish and Wildlife Service to delist the Golden Cheeked Warbler, a small song bird listed as endangered by the Service in 1990. The petitioners argue that the Service’s decision was erroneous and was based on inaccurate science that grossly underestimated the number of birds and extent of their habitat in Central Texas. Groups opposed to the delisting of the Golden Cheeked Warbler claim that the petitioners are relying on flawed studies and point out that as a result of the Warbler’s status as endangered, thousands of acres of Central Texas lands have been spared from development… Read more from the KBH Energy Center