Bringing the Endangered Species Act into the 21st Century



U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings

From the decimation of our timber industry to severe restrictions placed on our growers, those of us in the Pacific Northwest are all too familiar with the severe impact that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can have on our local communities - often with little benefit to the species this law is intended to protect.

In recent years, communities throughout the nation have begun to face similar problems with these frequent ESA listings.

The 40-year-old Endan-gered Species Act was last renewed by Congress in 1988 - long before the Internet and cell phones were as widespread as they are today. With new technologies available and strong support for conserving endangered species, there are key areas where improvements could be made to bring the law into the 21st Century.

Most recently here in Central Washington, the court-mandated listing of the White Bluffs bladderpod, a plant found on thousands of acres of land in Franklin and Benton counties, is a prime example of that is wrong with the ESA law.

I firmly believe that local officials understand the needs of their communities better than unelected and unaccountable bureaucrats in Washington D.C., and yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pushed through the listing of this plant in spite of DNA data compiled by local officials that found no difference between the White Bluffs bladderpod and plants found in three other states.

What makes the White Bluffs bladderpod in Central Washington different from one in Oregon or Idaho? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been unable to answer this simple question, and yet went forward with this listing that could severely restrict the use of fertile farmland in Central Washington.

Instead of focusing on working together to recover species that are at risk, the ESA has become a litigant’s dream. More than 500 ESA-related lawsuits have been filed against the government in the past six years alone - meaning that the courts, and not the scientists, are making the decisions over what species need protection.

That is why I’m proud to report the House of Representatives recently passed H.R. 4315, the “Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act,” a bill I introduced that will help update and improve the ESA.

Specifically, this legislation will increase transparency by making the science used in these decisions public online, ensure greater input opportunities by states, localities and Indian tribes in species listings, and reduce taxpayer-financed attorneys’ fees to help invest more funding in actual species recovery.

After more than four decades, it is past time for the Endangered Species Act to be modernized and updated. H.R. 4315 would help restore the original intent of the ESA – to conserve species – and make the law more effective for both species and people.

The House’s approval – with Republican and Democrat support – of this bill is an important first step forward.

‑ U.S. Congressman Doc Hastings (R-Pasco) represents Central Washington’s Fourth Congressional District.


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