Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee held its fifth oversight hearing on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Entitled “ESA Decisions by Closed-Door Settlement: Short-Changing Science, Transparency, Private Property, and State & Local Economies,” the hearing included over a dozen Republican witnesses, with only three Democrats.
At the hearing, critics of the ESA urged reform to ensure that the statute’s focus is on recovering species and science, rather than litigation. Referencing the landmark 2011 settlement between Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), which requires the Service to review 757 species by 2018, Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) stated that “the ‘listing-by-litigation’ approach is not working for people and species.” He continued: “Undoubtedly, some believe cramming hundreds of obscure species onto the ESA list under deadlines and blocking off huge swaths of land because of the settlements are ‘successes,’ but many areas of the country tell a different account of how these policies are impacting their communities, their economies, and ultimately, the species.” In response, CBD’s endangered species policy director Brett Hartl said the settlement “simply requires the [Service] to do its job in a timely manner and make decisions about protecting species.”