THE Endangered Species Act (ESA) working group has been charged with finding ways to boost the effectiveness of the law, and this month, the group released the final report on its findings and recommendations.
The report is the culmination of the working group's eight-month effort to examine the ESA from a variety of viewpoints and angles, receive input on how the ESA is working and being implemented and whether and how it could be updated to be more effective for both people and species.
The report reflects hundreds of comments from outside individuals and testimony from nearly 70 witnesses who appeared before an ESA working group forum and House Natural Resources Committee hearings.
"After more than 40 years, sensible, targeted reforms would not only improve the eroding credibility of the act but would ensure it is implemented more effectively for species and people," the report concludes.
Rep. Doc Hastings (R., Wash.) said the groups' findings show that there is room for improvement and ways to bring this 40-year-old law into the 21st century.
"Returning focus of the law to species recovery, addressing litigation and settlement reforms, improving state and local participation and improving science and data are some of the specific areas of improvements on which I believe we can build consensus," Hastings said. "I hope this report can further the discussion on the ESA and serve as a starting point as we move forward with sensible and targeted legislative proposals in the coming months."
Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) said the report is an "exciting opportunity" to bring the ESA into the next millennia.
"The American people have grown by leaps and bounds in their understanding of conservation, their willingness to conserve species and their ability to conserve species. The ESA needs to grow with them," Lummis said.
"The ESA is stuck in a litigation-driven model. This outdated model hinders the boots-on-the-ground conservation we should be harnessing to actually recover endangered species, not just spout flowery rhetoric about the law in courtrooms," she said.
ESA working group member Rep. Randy Neugebauer (R., Texas) added that he was proud to see recognition of Texas' state-level efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken. "It makes sense to allow states — which have the knowledge, skills and experience to manage species and habitat — to take the lead in protecting our wildlife," he said. "By working together to truly conserve species like the lesser prairie chicken, states should be able to prevent listings under ESA."