Policy Update Sep 22, 2020

Position on S. 4589, Endangered Species Act Amendments

NPCA submitted the following position to members of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works ahead of a hearing scheduled for September 23, 2020.

NPCA opposes S. 4589, the Endangered Species Act Amendments of 2020, which would undermine the ability of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Marine Fisheries Service, and other federal agencies like the National Park Service, to protect and recover vulnerable species around the country. Congress should instead ensure the agencies tasked with Endangered Species Act (ESA) implementation have sufficient funding and resources to carry out their existing responsibilities efficiently and effectively under the law.

National parks provide habitat for over 600 threatened and endangered species, from Canada Lynx in Yellowstone National Park to the Karner blue butterfly in Indiana Dunes National Park to the Spruce-fir moss spider in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Just as these species are important components of national park ecosystems, national parks are key to the future recovery of these species under the ESA.

S. 4589 will not serve or promote the ongoing protection and restoration of threatened and endangered national park species. Some of NPCA’s specific concerns include:

Sec. 201(c )(1): The bill creates a deliberate imbalance in the consultation process by stating that consultation with states should be “subject to a higher standard.” States are important stakeholders in the ESA process. However, they are not the only stakeholders, and in some cases may not be the primary stakeholder. By elevating states, Congress is downplaying and minimizing the role that other agencies and members of the public can and should have in the ESA process.

Sec. 203: The bill structures the creation of recovery teams, implementation teams and implementation to prioritize state leads. States are key stakeholders in the recovery process, however moving forward with recovery under the ESA should not rely solely on state actions. Recovery of a species commonly requires bringing state agencies, federal agencies, and the best academic minds together to craft a path forward for the species. Delegating its implementation specifically to 50 independent state governments would negatively impact many species that exist around the country and across into international borders.

Sec. 204: The bill prevents judicial review for a “monitoring period” after delisting. This gives the public no recourse if the agency decides to delist a species prematurely or takes insufficient measures to make sure it is managed properly in the five years after delisting. It eliminates the checks and balances between the executive and judicial branches.