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The Endangered Species Act: WLA Weighs In

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On July 2, Senator John Barrasso (R) of Wyoming released draft legislation that would amend the ESA. Several items from this initial draft caught our attention. Here’s a short summary of those items, followed by our assessment.

The discussion draft:

  • Provides for actions intended to enhance the federal-state partnership.

Our assessment: Increasing the role of states in species recovery may improve species conservation. However, WLA recognizes that priorities, budgets and landscapes differ from state to state and this impacts how states participate in species conservation efforts. The role of states in land acquisition processes and developing recovery plans requires additional discussion.  

  • Encourages conservation activities through regulatory certainty.

Our assessment: Opportunities for voluntary conservation and providing certainty for landowners is a priority and WLA generally supports the amendments proposed in this section. Unfortunately, the discussion draft does not address funding for technical assistance and to landowners who implement conservation practices. WLA has encouraged Congress to authorize funding for species recovery and proactive conservation.

  • Outlines actions to strengthen conservation decision making through increased transparency.  

Our assessment: WLA recognizes that increased transparency is important to support listing decisions. We also recognize the importance of ensuring landowner data is protected.

  • Strives to optimize conservation through resource prioritization.

Our assessment: WLA appreciates the emphasis on conservation activities and the recognition that these activities will be considered in prioritization processes. However, a 7-year work plan as proposed in the draft has the potential to create a crisis where the delay in making a decision on whether or not to list a species further harms species in need and increases landowner pressures. This portion of the discussion draft requires additional discussion.

If changes to the ESA are going to be considered in Congress, that must happen through a bipartisan effort. WLA will continue to engage in discussions regarding potential changes to the ESA. It is imperative that any changes, whether legislative or administrative, actually advance the conservation and recovery of wildlife species and are made in consideration of the significant contributions that landowners make to species conservation, healthy landscapes and healthy economies.  

Read landowner perspectives on the ESA in WLA’s Speaking from Experience: Landowners and the Endangered Species Act.   

Jessica Crowder WLAIf you have any questions, comments or concerns regarding the Farm Bill or other policy issues that WLA is working on, please email me: Jessica@westernlandowners.org. I look forward to hearing from you!

Western Landowners Alliance is pleased to welcome Jessica Crowder on staff as our new Policy Director. Before joining WLA, Jessica Crowder served as policy advisor for Wyoming Governor Matt Mead for over four years.  Her work for the governor focused on natural resource management with an emphasis on federal land management. Read Jessica’s full bio on the “Our People” page.

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