Republican Congressman Chris Stewart (UT) recently introduced a bill (pdf) that would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to require federal wildlife agencies to include the number of species found on state, tribal, and private lands in its official count when determining whether a species should be protected under the ESA. Currently, the ESA does not include a specific requirement regarding how to account for a species’ population. Rather, federal agencies are required to use the “best scientific and commercial data available” when determining whether a species is endangered or threatened.
According to a report by Jessica Estepa from E&E News, the legislation was introduced to address a specific issue with the Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens), which is found in Rep. Stewart’s district. The number of individuals found on state, tribal, and private lands – land that is currently not being considered by federal agencies when evaluating whether to list the prairie dog – could be in the thousands and may impact the determination of whether the species is on the path to recovery.