On September 28, I joined senators and Senate staff for a Capitol Hill briefing hosted by Sen. Tammy Duckworth. Our discussion focused on the report I co-authored with my colleagues at the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources, entitled Conservation Limited: Assessing State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection, which investigates states' capacity to protect and recover endangered species by looking at how these laws compare to the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA). It also looks at state and federal funding for implementing the ESA.
As we discussed during the briefing, the report found:
Several senators, including Duckworth, are concerned about such calls to devolve authority for endangered species management away from the federal government to the states, despite the Endangered Species Act's popularity with the American people and its significant successes. And it's not just federal lawmakers pushing to shrink and weaken the federal government's role in endangered species protection. The Western Governors' Association, for example, has called for states to be "provided the opportunity to be full partners in administering and implementing the Endangered Species Act," which is another way of asking for species management to be handed over to the states, despite their lack of preparation and resources to handle such an important task.
No Senate bills have been introduced yet, but Sen. John Barrasso, Chair of the chamber's Environment and Public Works Committee, has held a couple hearings on the topic and is expected to take it up again at some point.
House members, on the other hand, have introduced a number of damaging bills, including two that would completely reject the emphasis on science-based decision-making that has been vital to the success of the federal ESA:
For more information on the shortcomings of state endangered species laws and the importance of the federal government's role in protecting vulnerable species, check out Conservation Limited: Assessing State Laws and Resources for Endangered Species Protection and an earlier CPRBlog post on the subject. The Defenders of Wildlife has also developed a useful online app based on our research that provides access to state-specific information on laws and funding, as well as maps of the data.