House Natural Resources Committee To Hold Hearing On Department Of The Interior's 2011 Endangered Species Act Settlements

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On Thursday, December 12, 2013, the House Natural Resources Committee (Committee) will hold a full committee oversight hearing (pdf) titled “ESA Decisions by Closed-Door Settlement: Short-Changing Science, Transparency, Private Property, and State & Local Economies.” This hearing is part of a series of hearings announced by the Committee to review the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and conduct an assessment of the law’s strengths and weaknesses.

As we previously reported, in 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) developed a six-year work plan that would allow it to systematically review and address more than 250 candidate species as part of a settlement agreement with WildEarth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity. Under the settlement agreement, the Service agreed to prioritize listing decisions for several candidate species, and the environmental groups agreed to refrain from filing actions to compel findings on new listing petitions that they submit.

Republicans have largely condemned the settlement, arguing that the “sue-and-settle” approach has led to excessive litigation that requires federal agencies to spend great time and financial resources addressing lawsuits rather than species recovery. The Service, on the other hand, regards the settlement as a success, noting that setting deadlines for final decisions on candidate species has spurred cooperation from states and private landowners in creating conservation plans that address concerns about the species without necessarily requiring the need for listings.

The Committee’s hearing will be held at 10:00 a.m. EST, in room 1324 Longworth House Office Building, Washington, DC.