New Report Shows State Endangered Species Laws Come Up Short in Protecting Imperiled Plants, Animals, Habitats

by Alejandro Camacho | August 04, 2017

In spite of its documented success in conserving vulnerable species and ecosystems, as well as robust and enduring support among American voters, the federal Endangered Species Act has not been spared from calls to devolve funding and authority from the federal government. As this trend has gained increasing support within the 115th Congress and the Trump administration, Sen. John Barrasso (R-WY), Chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, is widely expected to introduce legislation that seeks to erode federal support for species conservation. Under the banner of "modernization" and through the mechanisms of devolution, the bill is anticipated to transfer responsibility for the protection and recovery of imperiled species to the states. But as a new report shows, states are not ready to take on this crucial responsibility.

The report, released August 2 by the Center for Land, Environment, and Natural Resources at the University of California, Irvine School of Law, provides a detailed analysis of state endangered species laws and funding to implement the federal ESA. It compares state endangered species protections against the federal law in terms of existing statutes, the extent of species covered, standards and provisions for listing species, authority for recovering planning, designation of critical habitats, substantive and land-use restrictions, consultation for public action, and habitat modification. Though a few states do include robust protections that mirror or complement the federal ESA, across all of these areas, the report ...

When Deciding Which Endangered Species to Prioritize, What Role Do Biodiversity and Ecosystem-Level Assessments Play?

by Jarryd Page | July 31, 2017
This post is the second of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the first post here.  In drafting the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA), Congress gave explicit attention and priority, and therefore funding, to individual species. Rather than approaching species conservation through a more holistic consideration of a species' importance within its ecological community, giving broader attention to biodiversity, or looking ...

Does Species Triage Make Sense for the Fish and Wildlife Service?

by Jarryd Page | July 31, 2017
This post is the first of a pair focused on the challenges facing the Endangered Species Act and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the 21st century. You can read the second post here. Imagine yourself in a sinking ship. The water is rising quickly. Around you are 20 unique, precious artifacts, among the last of their kind to exist on Earth. You only have the capacity to rescue 10 pounds of these objects – if you try to take on ...

Saving Endangered Species Requires a Systemic, Nationwide Approach

by Robert Glicksman | April 21, 2016
Yesterday, I joined four other witnesses in testifying about the Endangered Species Act (ESA) at a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee hearing. Most of the witnesses and House members who attended focused on a variety of complaints about the ESA's provisions governing listing and delisting of species and called for changes to the law and the ways in which it is administered. In doing so, they missed the larger point about efforts to save endangered and threatened species: we ...

CPR's Glicksman Testifies on Endangered Species Act

by Matthew Freeman | April 20, 2016
Center for Progressive Reform Member Scholar (and board member) Rob Glicksman is on Capitol Hill testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s subcommittee on the Interior this afternoon at 2 pm ET. The hearing will focus on “barriers to delisting” of species under the Endangered Species Act. He’ll cover four major points in his testimony, which he summarizes thusly: First, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has achieved considerable success in achieving its conservation goals. Second, budgetary constraints have prevented the two agencies ...

Friday in DC: Creative Approaches to Critical Habitat Protection Under the ESA

by Dave Owen | March 20, 2013
Two months ago, a federal district court in Alaska set aside the Department of the Interior’s designation of critical habitat for the polar bear.  This had been the most geographically extensive critical habitat designation ever under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), but it provoked adamant opposition from the petroleum industry and the state of Alaska.  That isn’t atypical; critical habitat designations often generate controversy.  But one might wonder why. The ESA’s only provision directly targeted at critical habitat protection is ...

FWS' Critical Habitat Area Designation for Polar Bears is Good News, but How Much Difference Will it Make?

by Dan Rohlf | November 30, 2010
First the good news: the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) last week designated a huge expanse of barrier islands, denning areas, and sea ice in the Arctic as “critical habitat” for polar bears under the federal Endangered Species Act. The largest such protected area in the ESA’s history, the new critical habitat covers an area larger than the states of Oregon and Washington combined. FWS listed polar bears as “threatened” in 2008, after a petition from environmental organizations and ...

Brown Pelican Dis-Endangered

by Holly Doremus | November 12, 2009
This posting is reprinted, by permission from Legal Planet. The Fish and Wildlife Service yesterday announced some very good news — the brown pelican will soon be removed from the list of endangered and threatened species. This enormous fish-eating bird has been protected since 1970, when it was included on the very first list of US endangered species under a predecessor to the current Endangered Species Act. Its population rebounded after DDT was banned in 1972. By 1985, the pelican ...

Wishful Thinking Doesn't Justify Grizzly Delisting

by Holly Doremus | September 23, 2009
Cross-posted by permission from Legal Planet. Federal Judge Donald Molloy in Montana has ordered the Fish and Wildlife Service to restore grizzly bears in the Yellowstone area to the list of endangered and threatened species. Judge Molloy refused to allow FWS to delist the grizzly on the basis of unsupported wishful thinking about the bear’s future. Grizzly bears once roamed across most of the North American west, but the population in Yellowstone is one of the few remaining remnants in ...

CPR Scholars Submit Comments on Reforming ESA's Inter-Agency Consultation Regulations

by James Goodwin | August 03, 2009
Today, I joined CPR Member Scholars Mary Jane Angelo, Holly Doremus, and Dan Rohlf in submitting comments to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS)—one of the agencies charged with primary responsibility for executing the Endangered Species Act (ESA)—suggesting several ways to improve the regulations for implementing interagency consultations under the Act. Under Section 7 of the ESA, which governs interagency consultations, any time that a federal agency like the Department of Defense or the Department of Transportation wants to ...

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