According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 22 species have been listed in Idaho under the Endangered Species Act. There are 1,590 ESA listings nationwide. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported that only 28 species have been delisted due to recovery in the more than 40 years since the ESA’s enactment. Considering the long-term, far-reaching and rigid conservation requirements that accompany listings, we must especially ensure that any ESA determinations are guided by sound science that is publicly available in an open process. The lack of transparency is unacceptable.
I recently co-sponsored legislation to further this effort. S. 292, the 21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act, which is also co-sponsored by fellow Idaho Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), would amend the ESA to require the U.S. Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce to publish on the Internet data used in listing and delisting federally endangered and threatened species. Requiring the administration to be transparent about the data used for ESA listings can help make certain that the best available science is used in an open, public ESA listing process. The legislation also provides protections for personal landowner information.
Additionally, again, I am co-sponsoring the Secret Science Reform Act with the shared goal of shedding much needed light on federal regulation. This legislation would prohibit the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from proposing, finalizing or disseminating regulations or assessments based upon science that is not transparent or not reproducible.
I also co-sponsored S. 293, the Endangered Species Settlement Reform Act. The bill, also co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Risch, would prevent closed-door settlements under the ESA. Such settlements often have far-reaching repercussions and must be transparent. For example, a 2011 settlement led to a six-year listing work plan for the USFWS to review and potentially list more than 250 species. The legislation would open up litigation to local stakeholders and give impacted states and counties a seat at the table, while also limiting the use of taxpayer dollars to fund ESA lawsuits.
Wildlife and environmental conservation are not only essential goals, but also yield important opportunities and benefits for local communities dependent on recreation dollars, hunters, anglers, sportsmen and women and other outdoor enthusiasts. Nonetheless, I share the concerns of many Idahoans regarding species conservation and ESA impacts on our state. We have seen the potential harm and consequences that result from adding to the list of endangered species.
Ensuring species survival and conservation is a worthy goal, but it must be done in balance with many other valid considerations. It remains essential to preserve viable wildlife populations to keep this wildlife management issue at the local and state level and out of the hands of the federal government. Locally driven collaboration is the best means of addressing many of our wildlife, environment and public lands issues, and it must be given every opportunity to work.
ESA reforms are needed to ensure that landowners are best enabled to work with local wildlife managers to recover species and prevent listings while not trampling property rights and local concerns. Making certain that the science used in determining ESA listings and the process is publicly accessible is an important part of this effort. Oversight of the Endangered Species Act to restore local control of conservation efforts is a welcome priority of the new leadership of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. As a member of the EPW committee, I will continue to work to advance common sense ESA reforms.