October 19, 2017

Panel: Bipartisan Bills Enhance ESA Protections, Boost Hydropower Reliability

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 12, 2017 –

Today, the Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a legislative hearing on H.R. 3144 (Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-WA) and H.R. 3916 (Rep. Ken Calvert, R-CA), the “Federally Integrated Species Health Act” or “FISH Act,” bills to improve the recovery of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed fish while providing certainty for water and power users.

Clearly, the ESA process is broken and the status quo isn’t working for species, farmers and ranchers and rural communities that depend on our natural resources. Under the status quo, American taxpayers and ratepayers in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere in the West spend literally billions of dollars each year resulting from conflicting or duplicative federal regulatory or judicial edicts under the guise of the ESA. These bills represent bipartisan, pragmatic solutions,” Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn (R-CO) said.

The current hydropower system along the Columbia-Snake Rivers is held hostage to litigation and unpredictable federal rulings that could impose tens of millions of dollars on taxpayers and Pacific Northwest ratepayers with little additional benefit to endangered salmon. H.R. 3144 creates a more reliable and cost-efficient regulatory framework by providing federal agencies that operate Northwest hydropower dams with statutory clarity in the enforcement of the ESA, in line with a collaborative plan deemed scientifically sound by the previous two administrations, several states, tribes, utilities, ports and other stakeholders.

The dams of the Columbia-Snake River system are multipurpose in that they provide hydropower, flood control, navigation, irrigated agriculture and recreation. The benefits of the dams cannot be measured by megawatts alone but in the overall value they provide the region,” United Power Trades Organization President Jack Heffling stated. “[Keeping the current federal plan] continues the programs that have proven extremely successful in migrating fish survival.”

“Eighty percent of PNGC’s power supply comes from the Bonneville Power Administration… PNGC values the clean, carbon free, flexible hydropower resources that BPA provides,” PNGC Power President and CEO Beth Looney stated“If BPA’s rates continue to climb at their current trajectory, they will likely not be competitive with alternative power supply choices in the region at that time… as an electric cooperative, we have a responsibility to supply power to our members at an affordable rate whether that comes from Bonneville or elsewhere.”

The four dams along the Snake River produce enough renewable energy to power 1.8 million homes annually or the equivalent of two nuclear, three coal-fired or six gas-fired power plants.

Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Reclamation Alan Mikkelsen expressed support to reduce litigation and refocus resources on the current operation plan while working towards “a quality long term [Federal Columbia River Power] System solution.”

The need to balance the ongoing operations of the [Federal Columbia River Power] System and achieving compliance with environmental laws is what H.R. 3144 seeks to achieve,” Mikkelsen added.

H.R. 3916, a concept supported by President Obama in 2011,  also eliminates redundancies and regulatory confusion across federal agencies related to ESA enforcement.

H.R. 3916  is [an] important step in reducing wasted time and money and represents a practical, common-sense change… that we strongly support,” Executive Director of the Family Farm Alliance Dan Keppen stated. The FISH Act provides an opportunity to enhance protections to threatened and endangered species by improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the federal government’s approach to species protection through better decision-making.

[SOURCE]

Share

Bills to Modernize Endangered Species Act Advance Through Committee

Press Release from the House Committee on Natural Resources:

*Editor’s Note* – It is highly recommended that readers take the time to read the full text of each proposed bill. Links are provided. A synopsis, as is provided, often only relays what the author wants readers to read and not what a bill actually says and does, or does not do.

WASHINGTON, D.C., October 4, 2017 –

Today, the House Committee on Natural Resources passed five bills to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement:

The ESA is a landmark statute created with noble intent. It also includes fatal design flaws that inhibit greater success and handicap state-led, science-based recovery strategies. These flaws must be addressed and the law must be modernized. This slate of bills provides a framework for this discussion that we will build upon in coordination with the Senate, Trump administration, states and all interested stakeholders. I thank the bill sponsors for their work on these important pieces of legislation and look forward to our work ahead.”

H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN), the “Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017,” reissues the final rules from the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to delist the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes region and maintains effective state wolf management in Wyoming. The bipartisan bill passed by a vote of 26-14.

H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olson, R-TX), the “Listing Reform Act,” allows for the consideration of economic factors in threatened listing decisions. It also provides flexibility to agencies’ prioritization in processing listing petitions, which relieves FWS from excessive litigation and allows more resources to be used for species conservation and recovery. It passed by a vote of 22-13.

H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA), the “State, Tribal and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act,” fosters greater cooperation between the federal government and states by ensuring state, local and tribal scientific data is factored into ESA species listing decisions. The bill passed by a vote of 22-14.

H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX), the “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act,” removes duplicative permitting requirements for interstate movement of nonnative endangered species enhancing opportunities for conservation. The bipartisan “SAVES Act” passed by a vote of 23-16.

H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-MI), the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act,” combats the recent proliferation of ESA-related litigation by capping attorneys’ fees to the same reasonable levels allowed for other types of citizen lawsuits against the government. It passed by a vote of 22-16.

Click here to view full markup action.

Share

Canada Lynx Are So “Endangered” They Play on People’s Decks

While the moment is presented as a unique opportunity for a photographer in Alaska to take pictures of a family of Canada lynx hanging out on his deck, it also shows the inanity of the U.S. Federal Government, and the useful idiots who enable them, spending millions of dollars protecting a species that doesn’t even come close to being endangered or threatened in any way.

But, we are living in an insane and post normal existence now.

Share

Rockholm Video: The Real Wolf Story

Share

Commissioners oppose wolf recovery plan draft

As in past Mexican gray wolf recovery plans, the Lincoln County Commission approved a letter and reaffirmed a resolution in opposition to a draft released for public comment by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Commissioners were following the recommendations last week of the board of supervisors of the Upper Hondo Water and Soil Conservation District and of the members of the county’s Land and Natural Resources Advisory Committee.<<<Read More>>>

Share

Comments on ESA Political Posturing – Aug. 2017

By James Beers:

The following proposals in Congress to “fix” the ESA deserve exposure to sunlight and a few comments as to what they are up to beyond posturing for campaign photos: the answer being, not much.  Jim Beers

  1. •H.R. 424(Rep. Collin Peterson), To direct the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and for other purposes. “Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017

Numbers of gray wolves are exploding in most areas where they exist or have been introduced. This has had a severe impact on local livestock, as well as large grazing wildlife such as moose, elk, deer, etc. Ranchers and state wildlife managers have found themselves at odds with environmentalist wolf advocates who urge–and often go to court for–continued protections on what are thriving, and ecologically and economically significant predator populations. The hearing memo summarizes the issue this way:

Gray wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974. Existing wolves present in the Western Great Lakes Region were protected, and the federal government introduced the species canis lupus irremotus to the West by removing wolves from Canada and releasing them in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and 1995. States, local citizens, livestock groups, and sportsmen opposed the reintroduction effort. The reintroduced wolf population in the West recovered and expanded more quickly than anticipated. As a result, in September 2001, the states and tribes began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formulate plans that would effectively transition management responsibility to the
states upon delisting.

FWS deemed the Idaho and Montana wolf management plans adequate, but did not approve the Wyoming plan. Gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List on January 14, 2009. As part of their management plans, Idaho and Montana conducted tightly controlled wolf hunts beginning in the autumn of 2009. Sales of wolf hunt tags fund management activities, and hunts are conducted in a similar fashion to those of large ungulates and other wild animals under state management.

Litigious environmental groups challenged the FWS decision to delist the wolves in Idaho, Montana, and the Western Great Lakes, arguing that the rule had been politically motivated and did not comply with ESA. The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana held that the rule was a “political solution that does not comply with ESA” and that delisting of a species which was still endangered in a portion of its region (Wyoming) was not appropriate. The delisting of the wolves was halted in all states until the Wyoming plan was acceptable. See full hearing memo here.

Comments:

–       It says a great deal about the sad state of national wildlife affairs when, as a positive justification for more federal legislation, we accept as a positive accomplishment thriving, and ecologically and economically significant predator populations”.  Predators are like armies; they kill and disrupt things in accord with their controls. Do we really think “thriving” predator populations are good when they kill and wreak all manner of havoc when uncontrolled?  When, and if, we choose to maintain, introduce and protect large predators; it should be done primarily for the common good of society and not for the “ecology” which is a controversial judgment at best or to have them “thrive” with no qualifier that recognizes where they do not belong and densities and distributions to be tolerated in other areas with the consent of those communities forced to host them.

–       It is specious to say, reintroduced wolf population in the West recovered and expanded more quickly than anticipated”.  The politicians should tell the truth and drop “anticipated” to be replaced with “we were told”.  The very same bureaucrats that downplayed the potential of wolves with full protection and unlimited food sources (like your pet dog wolves are omnivorous) are the same bureaucracy you want to tweak and expect to get a different result when the past 3 decades reveal how they operate and the increasing havoc they are wreaking.

–       It is a scam of enormous proportions to write and speak that, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formulate plans that would effectively transition management responsibility to the states upon delisting” is anything other than the federal government and the wolf NGO’s simply telling the states where and how many wolves they must maintain and then the state pays the bill and only uses federally approved methods based on counts (never accurate and always grist for lawsuits in the “right” court before the “right” judge) that will allow the bureaucrats and their “partners” to takeback “control” whenever politically possible.  This is one case where the piper doesn’t pay the bill: those told how and when to dance, pay the bill!  Ask yourself where does the money come from for lawsuits, counting, investigating, vehicles, fuel, salaries, retirement, insurance, clerks, biologists, wardens, contractors, compensation, “administration”, etc. for all this?  It diverts large portions of the License fees, Excise Taxes and other revenue from state functions for all to dance to a federal piper.  When they tell you that they sold a lot of wolf licenses, keep in mind that wolves are smart and quickly adapt.  Shooting, trapping and other “sporting” methods of take are quickly learned and after a year or two of only a few killed, the initial surge of “hunters” buying a wolf tag (that at best will never begin to cover the cost of “managing” these federally sanctified critters) for only a few wolves will wane and then the surge of happiness will turn into a hangover as everyone realizes that this may go on “forever” and everything else in the state responsibilities toolbox is going to suffer, and suffer bigtime.

  1. •H.R. 717(Rep. Pete Olson), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require review of the economic cost of adding a species to the list of endangered species or threatened species, and for other purposes. “Listing Reform Act

One of the starkest examples of devastating economic impact by an ESA listing is that of the spotted owl, which effectively decimated the timber industry of the American North Pacific. The Listing Reform Act is intended to prevent such sweeping economic destruction. It is summarized:

H.R. 717, the “Listing Reform Act” would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to consider economic impacts in listing decisions for threatened species, and allow preclusion of the listing if the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects would result from the listing, or from the resulting designation of critical habitat. See full hearing memo here.

Comments:

–       I love the way these politicians can casually say, One of the starkest examples of devastating economic impact by an ESA listing is that of the spotted owl, which effectively decimated the timber industry of the American North Pacific” (the Aleutians are treeless could the staffer mean Northwest?) and then blithely go on talking about the law that caused that devastation to thousands of families and the economy, and expanded the bureaucracy power created by that law as if they were a Mayor explaining why revenue-generation-only speed traps are really good and a tweak or two here and there and everyone will benefit and be happy one day.  What about the pols that passed such a law that did this?  What about the increasingly corrupt bureaucrats that then perpetrated this atrocity with their “rules”, “regulations”, “policies” and collusion with radical groups for a myriad of hidden agendas – all under the color of a LAW every bit as bad as Prohibition?  Who has ever been held responsible for any of this?  Physician, heal thyself!

–       Are you kidding me?  “Consider economic impacts”?  These are the same federal bureaucracies that ignored wolves as vectors disease and infections; that denied any impacts on big game; that turned over federal livestock compensation for wolf predation to the Defenders of Wildlife; that lied about human dangers; that has minimized human attack reports; that stole millions from state Excise taxes to trap wolves in Canada after Congress had denied authorization and funding; that imported the wolves without required paperwork (something seriously punished on select civilians); that released the wolves into the Upper Rockies again without Congressional authorization; and that to this day works with radical environmental groups to further subdue and conquer rural America for their purposes.  None of these awful and illegal oppressions were ever punished. Indeed they (the bureaucrats) rewarded themselves greatly from government funding for their good job.  That said, who really believes that something as “airy-fairy” as “economic impacts” requires anything but lies?  There is no accountability for the aforementioned REAL egregious actions.  How would you ever hold anyone accountable for economic impacts that turned out to have missed XY&Z?  Beam me up Scotty!

  1. •H.R. 1274(Rep. Dan Newhouse), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require making available to States affected by determinations that species are endangered species or threatened species all data that is the basis of such determinations, and for other purposes. “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act

Despite the provision within the ESA requiring the federal government to cooperate with states and tribes to the greatest extent possible, history has shown that this does not always happen, and states and localities are often left out of listings and related regulatory processes. The background of this issue is summarized this way:

States have testified that the ESA as currently implemented, does not properly honor their ability to participate to the maximum extent practicable in federal ESA listing decisions. States also have stated that they are not made privy to factors utilized by the federal government in listing decisions that impact lands, communities, and species within their borders.

States are the species managers prior to a listing decision by the federal government and will become the managers of the species after a delisting decision by the federal government. States possess extensive, on-the-ground experience and expertise in science-based wildlife management principles, generation of applicable data, and the application of public policy in managing wildlife as a public asset.

In spite of the expertise and willingness of State, local, and tribal governments to participate in the ESA process, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are not required to disclose scientific information or the basis they used in making listing or critical habitat decisions to the states or to utilize scientific data generated by the states, even though states often have actual data that the federal agencies do not. See full hearing memo here.

Comments:

–       All of this nonsense, Despite the provision within the ESA requiring the federal government to cooperate with states and tribes to the greatest extent possible, history has shown that this does not always happen, and states and localities are often left out of listings and related regulatory processes” and  States have testified that the ESA as currently implemented, does not properly honor their ability to participate to the maximum extent practicable in federal ESA listing decisions. States also have stated that they are not made privy to factors utilized by the federal government in listing decisions that impact lands, communities, and species within their border” is merely rich irony.  These same politicians that pass and condone a law that gives a federal bureaucracy (USFWS) total authority over calling wolves whatever works for their hidden agendas and complete jurisdiction over Where and How Many will be placed and maintained and who (ranchers, hunters, dog owners, elderly, children, etc.) will have to put up with what Or Else; these same guys now whine that there is little “participation” and “cooperation” and “transparency” with States?  Am I mistaken, but hasn’t it been made crystal clear that they (USFWS) have been and will continue to be (as long as USFWS staff and managers sympathetic to radical i.e. anti-grazing/private property/animal ownership/hunting/trapping/animal control /animal management/logging/irrigation/dams/roads/gun, etc. agendas and organizations remain in place) in league with and colluding with organizations and agendas that are anathema to States Rights, and a Rural America composed of free men with families and rights?  Mouthing “cooperation” and “transparency” for someone to whom you have given absolute power is like Russia “welcoming” Poland into the USSR after WWII and then years later wondering why there hasn’t been any “cooperation” or “transparency”.

–       Ditto for, In spite of the expertise and willingness of State, local, and tribal governments to participate in the ESA process, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are not required to disclose scientific information or the basis they used in making listing or critical habitat decisions to the states or to utilize scientific data generated by the states, even though states often have actual data that the federal agencies do not.”  See previous comment.

  1. •H.R. 2603(Rep. Louie Gohmert), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered species or threatened species for purposes of that Act. “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act

This bill offers protections to foreign species by easing and clarifying regulatory processes for captive breeding programs. Designed to support restoration programs for international species jeopardized by poaching, or other factors outside the purview of United States law, this bill would offer protections to endangered and threatened species without necessitating an ESA listing. The hearing memo summarizes the issue this way:

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 includes protections for nonnative endangered species in an effort to encourage foreign nations to protect jeopardized species and their habitats abroad. Nonnative endangered species are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Endangered Species Act through the captive bred wildlife (CBW) program.

Legal captive breeding of nonnative endangered species is a conservation measure that can create healthy populations of animals to augment recovery of wild populations, decrease illegal wildlife trafficking, and increase educational opportunities relating to the species. While no federal permit is required to own listed nonnative species, those wishing to sell or buy nonnative endangered species across state lines, including zoos and private breeders, must obtain a CBW permit from FWS.

H.R. 2603 would effectively eliminate the duplicative requirement for CBW permits for nonnative endangered species in the United States and held in captivity. Ease of transfer across state lines would enhance conservation and welfare of the species by allowing owners, breeders, and conservators of the species to ensure robust, and genetically diverse populations continue to exist in the United States. See the full hearing memo here:

Comment:

–       While it is admirable and surprising to see a proposed ESA Amendment to, effectively eliminate the duplicative requirement for CBW permits for nonnative endangered species in the United States and held in captivity. Ease of transfer across state lines would enhance conservation and welfare of the species”; some would say it is a symbolic token adjustment to the federal authority to totally regulate American Exotic Animal Owners.  Zoos and Aquariums would especially benefit from this, and the fact that the former Director of USFWS, who went out the door when President Trump came into office and is now the Executive Director or some such official with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is an example of the close relationship between lobby groups and USFWS top bureaucrats.  The federal oversight interference with and disruption of Privately-owned Exotic wildlife that is a foreign ESA Listed Species lies not so much with the transfers across state lines but with the totality of the management of privately owned herds that need routine culling and the federal interference with hunts, selling meat or hides or mounts to 1.) Keep herd sizes compatible with available forage, 2.) Contribute to local economies and 3.) Provide owners with the wherewithal to maintain the species.  The standards and treatment of zoos and aquariums are too often but a pale shadow of the treatment by bureaucrats of what private Listed Exotic Animal Owners endure.  It is worth noting that this is a proposal of a Texas Congressman and Texas had more such Exotic Wildlife and Exotic Wildlife Owners than any other State the last time I looked.

  1. •H.R. 3131(Rep. Bill Huizenga), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to conform citizen suits under that Act with other existing law, and for other purposes. “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.

Environmentalist groups, some with radical agendas, have taken advantage of the Equal Access to Justice Act to sue the federal government for ‘failing’ to properly protect species listed under the ESA. In so doing, the American taxpayer has paid out billions of dollars in huge settlements, which more often than not are used by such special interests to hire staff and bring on more lawyers to expand efforts to sue involved federal agencies. Known as ‘Sue & Settle,’ this long-standing practice has not just enriched radical special interests with public monies, but has given environmentalists an edge in using the ESA to halt economic activities, such as ranching, mining, logging, fishing, etc. This is made possible in large part due to the fact that there is no cap on what special interest groups which win settlements can claim for attorney’s costs. The issue is summarized this way.

Special interest attorneys representing environmental groups argue that their expertise is “specialized” to justify substantial, uncapped fees. Some special interest attorneys have collected fees as high as $750 taxpayer dollars per hour. According to records from the Department of Justice, at least two such attorneys have garnered more than $2 million in attorneys’ fees by filing ESA suits.

The taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund serves as the source for ESA-related attorneys’ fees payments. H.R. 3131 would require ESA litigants to abide by the same rules as others bringing suit against the federal government, requiring plaintiffs to prevail in order to collect attorneys’ fees, as well as impose the $125 fee cap set by EAJA. Capable environmental attorneys are no longer rare or specialized to the point where uncapped attorneys’ fees are justified. While this legislation does not restrict aggrieved parties’ ability to seek redress in court, it removes an incentive for litigious plaintiffs to request large fee awards and safeguards taxpayer dollars against abusive litigation tactics.

I leave this one to the lawyers in the crowd.  Such legislation, written by lawyers, proposed by lawyers, lobbied for by lawyers and described by lawyers are truthfully above my pay grade.  This complexity and long-standing possession of this arena of governance is one of the big reasons no one stands up to things anymore since we are all such purposely – uneducated ignoramuses about these matters.  I suppose this is why Will Rogers once observed that, “The minute you read something you can’t understand, you can almost be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer.”

Jim Beers

4 August 2017

If you found this worthwhile, please share it with others. Thanks.

Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

You can receive future articles by sending a request with your e-mail address to:   jimbeers7@comcast.net

Share

Bishop Statement on Gray Wolf Court Ruling

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 2017 –

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) issued the following statement on the Federal appeals court ruling concerning protections for gray wolves in the western Great Lakes region under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

“When science-based recovery criteria are met and environmental litigants can still drag the federal government through a decade of costly litigation before the delisting is final, we have a problem. Republicans and Democrats from impacted states have worked hard to resolve this conflict and ensure wolf populations are healthy and thriving but all they’ve received in return is prolonged economic harm and regulatory uncertainty. When ESA decisions are taken out of the hands of expert biologists and given to judges and radical ideologues, this is what happens.

“Congress must take action to protect communities from this broken law. Until we do, Americans’ tax dollars will continue padding the pockets of wealthy environmental trial lawyers, rather than investing in actual species recovery.”

Share

RMEF: Silver Linings in Great Lakes Wolf Ruling

*Editor’s Note* – Along with the earlier posting this morning, there is little need to get excited or even optimistic about anyone’s “ability” going forward to “manage” wolves or that states will do anything differently than the Federal Government is doing now. What changes is the financial responsibility is moved from the Feds to the states. Nothing else will change as has been proven in states where wolves are no longer protected under the Endangered Species Act. If you are hoping and thinking that removal of protection of wolves from the Federal Government to the State Governments is going to result in fewer “CONTROLLED” wolves and the state’s ability to manage populations of game animals for surplus harvest, as has been the modus operandi for decades under the North American Model of Wildlife Management will soon take over, you are seriously mistaken.

For what it is worth – meaning that this is but one appeals court decision and several more can make a mockery out of the fake judicial system and change these decisions with the stroke of a pen – where once, many years ago, I argued that environmentalists and the courts could not claim the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service doesn’t have authority to delist a Distinct Population Segment while, at the same time, approving of the act to list a Distinct Population Segment of any species. My argument fell on deaf ears and lo and behold one appeals court sees it the correct way.

Press Release from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation:

MISSOULA, Mont.—Unlike its decision earlier in 2017 upholding efforts to delist wolves in Wyoming, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia chose not to do the same in the Western Great Lakes states.

“We are disappointed with this latest ruling, but the court wholeheartedly rejected a number of claims by environmental groups regarding wolves and wolf management,” said David Allen, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation president and CEO. “The court undid a number of roadblocks thus providing a path forward.”

Positive points from the decision:

  • Rejected an environmental group argument that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) did not use the best available science
  • The Endangered Species Act allows the FWS to delist a distinct wolf population segment
  • Supported FWS’s reliance on state management of wolves and other wildlife in the Western Great Lakes states
  • Upheld the FWS’s determination that disease and human mortality do not pose a significant threat to the wolf population
  • There is no permanent barrier to delisting wolves

“This latest ruling came six years after the FWS tried for a third time to delist wolves in the Great Lakes. We call on Congress to approve and pass a legislative fix to halt this non-stop litigation that frustrates successful wildlife management,” said Allen. “These environmental groups continue to use the wolf as a fundraising tool while overlooking and ignoring each state’s approved wildlife management plans.”

As of 2015-16, there is an estimated minimum population of 3,762 wolves in the Great Lakes states. Minnesota’s wolf population is approximately one and a half times above objective. Michigan’s wolf population is more than 200 percent above its state plan and Wisconsin’s wolf population is more than 250 percent above objective.

RMEF recognizes that predators have a proper place on the landscape but that they need to be managed just as elk, deer and other wildlife are managed in accordance with the North American Wildlife Conservation Model.

Share

Court Sides with Sportsmen on Key Issue, but Leaves Wolves Protected for Now

Press Release from the Sportsmen’s Alliance:

On Tuesday, Aug. 1, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued its ruling in the Western Great Lakes wolf lawsuit appeal. The ruling is a short-term setback, but very likely a win for sportsmen in the long run.

For the immediate future, the Appellate Court’s decision leaves Endangered Species Act listing in place, upholding the lower court’s 2014 ruling that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) erred in delisting wolves in 2011. Very importantly, however, the court laid out a road map for FWS to delist the Western Great Lakes wolves on remand and dismantled many of the dangerous and unsupported holdings in the lower court decision.

Additionally, the appellate court ruled in favor of sportsmen on the most important legal issue in the case regarding the distinct population segment (DPS) definition in the Endangered Species Act and the Fish and Wildlife Service’s DPS Policy. The appellate court sided with the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation and our partners that the FWS has the ability to list and, as in this case, delist a species at the distinct population segment level:

“The central dispute in this case is whether the Endangered Species Act permits the Service to carve out of an already-listed species a “distinct population segment” for the purpose of delisting that segment and withdrawing it from the Act’s aegis. We hold that the Act permits such a designation, but only when the Service first makes the proper findings.” (Op. at 15-16).

This ruling means that, if the Fish and Wildlife Service takes the right steps, they are able to delist a recovered species in some places (a distinct population) without having to delist it everywhere. This flexibility will make the ESA more efficient and possibly subject to fewer legal challenges. HSUS and their partners had argued that FWS could never delist a smaller portion of a species unless the entire species had fully recovered and could be removed from the Endangered Species Act protections. HSUS has now lost that point.

“The court’s ruling that regional delisting is legally possible is a victory for sound scientific wildlife management and further upholds DPS policy of the Endangered Species Act as an important tool for conservation moving forward,” said Evan Heusinkveld, president and CEO of the Sportsmen’s Alliance. “While we clearly would have preferred that wolves be returned to state management today, this ruling provides a path forward for the Fish and Wildlife Service on how to successfully delist wolves once and for all.

“Folks in the animal-rights community would like believe that the Endangered Species Act is a one-way ratchet. In their world, you can only put species on to the Endangered Species List based upon a distinct population segment. However, we know that this is not how the ESA is written,” continued Heusinkveld. “This distorted view of the DPS policy is simply emblematic of their view of the ESA as a whole. They view this as a means to enshrine federal protections in perpetuity, as opposed to a tool to help those in need recover and be returned to state management.”

Additionally, the appellate court dismantled many of the main arguments provided by the HSUS-led coalition and holdings of the unfavorable lower court opinion:

  • The court upheld FWS’s interpretation that the ESA’s definition of “range” refers to “current range” at the time of the listing or delisting decision that is the subject of the case, not “historic range,” as HSUS argued. HSUS’ interpretation would mean that populations may never be delisted if they could not rebound throughout their historic range. However, the court said FWS must consider large losses in historical range in evaluating the continuing viability of the species in its current range. On remand, FWS must decide the “baseline” date from which historical range loss is measured. One likely date could be 1973 – the year Congress enacted the ESA.
  • HSUS argued that FWS failed to explain why the wolf population’s combined mortality from humans and disease is not a continuing threat to the species’ existence. The court found that FWS had thoroughly examined these factors, and that the wolf population had continued to grow despite any disease or human-caused mortality.
  • HSUS attempted to characterize Minnesota as an “unregulated killing zone.” While the lower court decision had agreed, the Circuit Court disagreed and found that Minnesota’s depredation plan did not amount to an “unregulated killing zone,” as it was indeed regulated and unlikely to threaten wolves’ survival.
  • HSUS argued the lack of state regulatory plans to monitor and protect the Western Great Lake wolves outside of their core recovery areas in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Michigan did not support FWS’s decision to delist those wolves. The court found that the lack of separate state plans in six nearby states was not a concern because wolves are virtually non-existent in those states, and those animals that do occasionally appear there are protected by other measures or they do not significantly contribute to the WGL population.
  • HSUS challenged the 2011 rule on genetics issues concerning whether there are one or two wolf species. The court rejected the HSUS argument that there were two separate species of wolves, and thereby additional protections were warranted.
  • HSUS argued that FWS had inappropriately responded to political pressure from Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D, Minnesota) in adopting its wolf-delisting order. The court rejected that argument, stating that HSUS could point to no science “ignored, misused, or manipulated” or to any material change in FWS’ position in response to a letter from Sen. Klobuchar. In particular, the court cites that FWS had acted favorably in response to several delisting petitions (including the Sportsmen’s Alliance petition) before Sen. Klobuchar’s letter.

How We Got Here:

The case stems from a late 2014 decision by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl A. Howell that ruled the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had to return wolves found in the western Great Lakes area to the protections afforded by the Endangered Species Act. At the crux of the case was the delisting of a “distinct population segment” of wolves from the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit brought by Humane Society of the United States; Born Free, USA; Help Our Wolves Live; and Friends of Animals and Their Environment argued that despite a healthy population of wolves that had surpassed all recovery goals in the western Great Lakes region, since wolf populations haven’t recovered in all 50 states, the animals must remain under federal protection as an endangered species even where they have recovered.

“This 2014 ruling clearly ignored years of Fish and Wildlife Service policy, court rulings and plain common sense,” said Heusinkveld. “The idea that wolves can never be deemed ‘recovered’ in the Great Lakes states until they have recovered across the entire U.S. is a complete fantasy.”

Joining the Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation in this case, was the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, Safari Club International, the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association, the National Rifle Association, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Wisconsin Bowhunters Association, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association and Michigan Hunting Dog Federation.

Share

Members Discuss Bill to Bring Much Needed Reforms to the Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON, D.C., July 19, 2017 –

Today, the Full Committee held a legislative hearing on five bills, most of which have advanced with bipartisan support, to reform and improve the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills work to empower states, ensure data transparency, improve listing and delisting processes, and discourage costly litigation that diverts critical resources away from species recovery.

It is my hope that, in coordination with our colleagues in the Senate and this Administration, we can lay the foundation for ESA reform that creates better outcomes for both species and communities,” Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) said. “We can improve ESA if we build consensus to address existing failures and pursue targeted, common sense reforms.”

Signed into law in 1973, over 1,564 species have been listed under the ESA, but only 23 recovered species have been delisted, amounting to a one percent success rate.

H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-WA), the “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency Act,” fosters greater federal and state cooperation and data transparency in species designations. It also ensures on-the-ground data is factored into listing decisions.

These agencies too often overlook local conservation plans that are developed to ensure the protection of native species and habitat. These local efforts should not be disregarded,” Newhouse stated. “By providing states, tribes, and localities the data used to promulgate these proposed listings, an opportunity arises for local stakeholders to get involved and have their voices heard.”

H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson, D-MN), the bipartisan “Gray Wolf State Management Act,” delists gray wolves in the Western Great Lakes and returns them to State management. The bill also maintains state management of Wyoming’s wolves and relieves both regions of the possibility of further litigation.

A single judge, sitting in Washington D.C., that I would say had no clue about what’s going on in our part of the world, created a mess by somehow deciding that the wolf had not reestablished themselves in the entire range,” Peterson said. “This was all done in spite of scientific evidence by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that gray wolf populations recovered and thrived.

H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olson, R-TX), the “Listing Reform Act,” allows for the consideration of economic factors in listing decisions for threatened species and also provides more agency flexibility in the petition process to discourage excessive ESA litigation.

We need to protect our endangered species, but we need to do it in a smart way. Arbitrary deadlines do not help. Neither do sweeping listings that threaten the communities and landowners who have been on that land since before the time states like mine were created.” Olson stated. “We can update the law without endangering our legacy for the next generation.”

“The ESA is a powerful law that can be inflexible and costly, with far-reaching effects on local economies,” Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts Glenn Hegar said.

H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-TX), the bipartisan “Saving America’s Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act,” removes duplicative permitting requirements for nonnative endangered species.

The inclusion of non-native species is out dated, overly burdensome, and in fact, works against the very intent of the ESA. Instead of promoting conservation of these international species, the redundant regulation hampers significant non-governmental resources in our country genuinely seeking to enhance conservation of non-native endangered species through captive breeding programs,” Vice Chairman Gohmert said. “Time and time again, in the modern world, we see well-intentioned legislation pit the federal government against the very private citizens who have a vested interest in the preservation of endangered species.”

H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga, R-MI), the “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act,” caps attorneys’ fees in ESA cases and ensures that the fees are only awarded to prevailing parties. This measure would bring lawsuits under ESA in line with other types of citizen lawsuits against the government.

For too long litigating attorneys representing non-governmental entities have taken advantage of the Endangered Species Act raking in millions of dollars of taxpayer funded money. In many cases, attorney billing rates have climbed as high as 400, 500 even 750 dollars an hour with hardworking American taxpayers left footing the bill,” Rep. Huizenga stated. “These exorbitant payouts funded by the American taxpayer only impede efforts to achieve the common goal of protecting species and habitats.”

Click here to view full witness testimony.

Share