NCBA & PLC Hail Legislation To Modernize ESA
WASHINGTON (Sept. 17, 2020) – The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) and the Public Lands Council (PLC), this week celebrated the introduction of critical legislation that will modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) for the first time in close to 30 years.
Introduced by Senator and Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), John Barrasso (R – Wyo), the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2020 will improve the existing law by strengthening state and local partnerships, incentivizing voluntary conservation efforts undertaken by ranchers and other land owners, and defend the ESA’s delisting process for animals that have successfully recovered and no longer need protection. Through these changes and with targeted increases for specific areas of the ESA, the bill will improve species conservation and address key failures in the Act.
"This legislation is about improving an outdated law so that it meets current needs. It is about helping every American cattle producer that has lost a calf to a federally-protected bear or wolf, and for landowners who face stringent regulation that doesn’t meet the habitat needs on the ground," said NCBA President Marty Smith. "Thank you to Senator Barrasso for taking on the big task of updating a law that is almost three decades old. I am glad to see a bill recognize that the best conservationists are the ranchers and farmers on their operations everyday taking care of the land and feeding the country."
"For too long, ranchers have been forced to deal with an antiquated law that does not recognize the expertise or the conservation done by those who actually live, work, and manage our rangeland," said PLC President Bob Skinner. “Ranchers are the original conservationists, and nowhere is that more true than in the West where millions of acres are managed primarily by ranchers whose daily presence on the landscape allows them to sound the alarm when species need additional help. This bill values the contributions of ranchers and other state experts who will develop stronger recovery plans together. Thank you to Chairman Barrasso for all the work he has done to fix a bill that was in dire need of updated tools."
The Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2020 empowers states to lead recovery planning, implementation planning, recovery teams, and implementation teams if states determine they have the appropriate capacity. The bill also requires negotiation with states prior to releasing an experimental population of a species and to give input from state experts “full and fair consideration” as the federal agencies implement ESA protection measures.
Voluntary conservation measures are key to the success of ESA recovery efforts, and the bill allows federal agencies to consider certain voluntary conservation measures as regulatory mechanisms under the ESA. This means that voluntary conservation measures undertaken by ranchers and landowners will be factored in to ESA determinations and recovery plans. It includes provisions to enhance the federal-state conservation partnership, and to encourage conservation through regulatory certainty, increased transparency, and resource prioritization.
The bill also codifies a prioritization system developed and implemented by the Obama Administration that has generally received broad support across the political spectrum. The prioritization system addresses listing petitions, status reviews, and proposed and final determinations, based on the urgency of a species’ circumstances, conservation efforts, and available data and information in order to determine which species are the most imperiled and should be prioritized higher.
Notably, the bill also reauthorizes the ESA for the first time in almost thirty years. It increases the authorization of appropriations by approximately 15 percent over currently appropriated levels which have largely been adjusted only for inflation, and focuses funding on recovery plan implementation and voluntary conservation efforts by private landowners.
Full Bill Text.