Posts tagged Congress.
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Long ago, the framers of the Constitution decided to separate the federal government's powers into three branches, with each branch acting as a check on the other.  Broadly speaking, the legislative branch writes the law, the judicial branch decides what the law means, and the executive branch decides how to enforce the law.  Sometimes, however, the powers can overlap among the branches.

For example, besides writing the laws, the legislative branch also approves the budgets for the various federal agencies.  And if a particular agency budget does not include funds for ...

In July we reported on five bills that propose to amend various aspects of the Endangered Species Act:

  • H.R. 2603 - would remove listings of non-native species;
  • H.R. 717 - would modify the process for listing determinations;
  • H.R. 3131 - would require a party to prevail in order to recover attorneys' fees and place a cap on fees;
  • H.R. 1274 - would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make listing determination data available to impacted states; and
  • H.R. 424 - would require the Department of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to the listing of the gray wolf in the ...

In a year that has already seen its fair share of attempts to reform the Endangered Species Act (ESA), another proposal has made its way into the House of Representatives.  Representatives Don Young (R-Alaska) and Debbie Dingell (D-Michigan) introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 5650) on July 7, 2016.  The bill is based on a plan unveiled by the Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America's Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources four months ago.

H.R. 5650 would direct approximately $1.3 billion each year from federal energy and mineral development revenues into state-led ...

On February 10, 2016, lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power, and Oceans are scheduled to discuss several wildlife laws, including the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  The Oversight Hearing is entitled The Costly Impacts of Predation and Conflicting Federal Statutes on Native and Endangered Species.  Anticipated topics for discussion include addressing the fact that conflicts between federal statutes often prevent agencies and federal officials from effectively reducing ...

On January 20, 2015, the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved S. 659, the Bipartisan Sportsmen’s Act of 2015, which complements the bill reported by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee late last year.  However, the Environment and Public Works Committee’s approval adds a number of controversial amendments to the Act’s overarching purpose of increasing recreational hunting, fishing, shooting, conservation, and other access on public lands.  An amendment offered by Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), and approved by voice vote, would delist ...

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced a bill last week to help address ongoing and future drought in California. The bill, known as the California Emergency Drought Relief Act (Act), is expected to be folded into broader legislation addressing the historic drought in the Western United States. The bill’s goals are to move existing water supplies and develop new  water sources in order to help those communities suffering the worst effects of the drought, while complying with the existing regulatory regime under the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Water Act. Senator ...

On January 28, 2015, Congressman Bill Flores (R-TX) introduced House Bill H.R. 585 (pdf), which seeks to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) to establish a new procedure for approval of certain stipulated consent decrees between the federal government and third parties.  Specifically, in cases brought under the ESA's citizen suit provision (16 U.S.C. § 1540(g)), H.R. 585 would require that parties interested in intervening in a lawsuit would have 30 days to intervene, during which time the parties in the case would not be able to file a motion for a consent decree or to ...

As we reported in October, after significant pressure from Congress, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced its intent to re-open the public comment period on its proposal to designate 546,335 acres of critical habitat for the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming.  Yesterday, the Service announced the re-opening of the public comment period, stating that the public comment period would be open "for an additional 60 days to ensure the public has ...

Yesterday, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) announced that it will re-open the public comment period on its proposal to designate 546,335 acres of critical habitat for the western population of yellow-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus americanus) in Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Wyoming.  The announcement came after 17 members of Congress requested that the Service provide additional time for the public to review the proposed critical habitat designation, and two members of Congress publicly criticized the Service's ...

Posted in Congress

This morning, the House Committee on Natural Resources is holding a legislative hearing on six proposed amendments to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The live video webcast of the hearing can be accessed here.  The six proposed amendments are:

H.R. 1314 - establishing a procedure for approval of certain types of settlements

H.R. 1927 - providing congressional direction for implementation of the ESA as it relates to operation of the Central Valley Project and the California State Water Project and for water relief in the State of California

H.R. 4256 - requiring the wildlife agencies ...

On July 29, 2014, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform legislation introduced by members of the House Natural Resources Committee. As previously reported, the legislation consists of four bills seeking to amend the ESA by, among other things, requiring federal agencies to release to the public all data used to make its listing decisions, disclosing the amount of federal funds used in ESA-related lawsuits, and requiring that the best scientific and commercial data available include information provided by state, tribal, and county ...

Yesterday, the House of Representatives approved the Open Book on Equal Access to Justice Act (H.R. 2919), which would amend existing law to require the Executive Branch to provide an annual report to Congress on the amount of fees and other expenses awarded to prevailing parties, other than the United States, in certain administrative proceedings and civil suits, including certain lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act and other environmental statutes.  The Act would require the report to account for all payments of fees and other expenses awarded made pursuant to a ...

Earlier this week, the House Natural Resources Committee held a hearing to discuss Endangered Species Act (ESA) reform. The hearing focused on four bills that seek to require data and spending transparency under the ESA.

As previously reported, an ESA Congressional working group released a final report stating that the ESA is not working. The proposed bills are a result of that final report. Despite a general agreement that the 40-year old ESA should be updated, the hearing displayed the divide between Republicans and Democrats over how to do so.

One of the bills discussed at the ...

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 ...

Members of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Congressional Working Group recently released a final report (pdf) asserting that the ESA is not working and providing four recommendations for improvement.

The report is the result of an eight-month effort led by Republican Representatives Doc Hastings (WA) and Cynthia Lummis (WY) to examine the ESA. The group received input from hundreds of individuals on how the ESA is currently being implemented, and whether it could be updated to be more effective. The report concludes that [a]fter more than 40 years, sensible, targeted reforms ...

Posted in Congress

On January 17, 2014, President Obama signed into law the $1.1 trillion dollar Omnibus Spending Bill, thereby funding the federal government through October 1.  Included in the Bill was a provision directing the Secretary of the Interior to reinstate an exemption that exempted the scimitar-horned oryx (Oryx dammah), the dama gazelle (Gazella dama), and the addax antelope (Addax nasomaculatus) from the Endangered Species Act.  The rider was introduced by Representative John Carter (R-Tex).  As we recently reported, proponents of the rider believe that exempting the species will ...

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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 ...

Posted in Congress

On October 10, 2013, the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group (Working Group) held a forum entitled Reviewing 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act and Seeking Improvement for People and Species. The forum featured 17 panelists, who discussed ways in which the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can be strengthened and improved to better serve the needs of both species and people. Participants specifically highlighted the need to empower states, local governments, and private landowners to conserve species and avoid federal listings, the need for balance within the law ...

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The Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group is scheduled to hold a forum tomorrow morning entitled "Reviewing 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act and Seeking Improvement for People and Species."  A press release issued by the Working Group states that the forum "will feature a diverse group of invited stakeholders who will testify on all angles of the ESA, its impacts on species and people over the last 40 years, and potential improvements going forward."  According to a recent story published by the Environment & Energy Daily entitled Sides spar over ...

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On August 22, 2013, U.S. Representative Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo) and the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings (R-Wash), announced that the Congressional Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group will be holding field hearings in Casper, Wyoming and Billings, Montana to find ways to improve the ESA for both species and people. The hearings, entitled State and Local Efforts to Protect Species, Jobs, Property and Multiple Use Amidst a New War on the West, will focus on efforts to preserve wildlife while maintaining jobs in agriculture, energy, and ...

Posted in Congress

Yesterday, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a second hearing regarding implementation and impacts of the Endangered Species Act.  Today's hearing was titled: Transparency and Sound Science Gone Extinct?: The impacts of the Obama Administration's Closed-Door Settlement on Endangered Species and People.  In a summary description issued before the hearing, the Committee stated that it anticipated the hearing would "highlight how the lack of data transparency is leading to increased numbers of species being listed and critical habitat being ...

Today, the House Natural Resources Committee is holding a full committee oversight hearing on species conservation efforts undertaken at on-the-ground-levels in an effort to compare those efforts with the effectiveness of Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits. The hearing, entitled Defining Species Conservation Success: Tribal, State and Local Stewardship vs. Federal Courtroom Battles and Sue-and-Settle Practices, is the first in a series of hearings planned by the House to review the effectiveness of conservation efforts under the ESA.

Natural Resources Committee ...

House Republicans recently announced the creation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) Working Group, which will be led by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-WA) and Western Caucus Co-Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-WY).  The ESA Working Group will include a total of 13 republican members from a broad geographic range.  It will examine the ESA from many angles through a series of events, forums, and hearings that will invite discussion and input on ways in which the ESA is working well, and where it can be updated or improved to increase its effectiveness for both people ...

Posted in Congress

On March 21, 2013, Representatives Bill Flores (R-TX), John Carter (R-TX), K. Michael Conaway (R-TX), Mac Thornberry (R-TX), and Steve Pearce (R-NM) introduced a bill (pdf) to curtail allegedly excessive Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits brought by environmental groups. The bill would prohibit courts from approving ESA settlements, unless states and counties that would be affected by the settlements have also given their approval. Also aimed at limiting the amount the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) can spend on ESA lawsuits, the bill would prevent litigants from ...

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Yesterday, a Republican Senator from Texas, John Cornyn, introduced a bill (pdf) that would prohibit the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from settling environmental lawsuits without first publishing the complaint "in a readily accessible manner, including electronically," and allowing "affected parties" an opportunity to intervene.  The bill further provides that the filing of any motion to dismiss or for entry of a consent decree based on a settlement agreement shall be prohibited until after affected parties have had a "reasonable opportunity" to intervene.  Should a ...

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As recently reported by a number of news agencies, President Obama will nominate Sally Jewell, the Chief Executive Officer of REI, to be the next Secretary of the Interior.  If the nomination is approved by the Senate, she will be replacing a vacancy created by Ken Salazar, who announced in January that he will be stepping down at the end of March.  It is anticipated that President Obama will make the announcement this afternoon.

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On January 23, 2013, over 25 California delegates to the House of Representatives introduced a bill, H.R. 399 (pdf), addressing the federal rules requiring trees growing on levees to be removed. Specifically, the bill would require the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Corps) to review its policy about vegetation-removal on levees, in order to consider allowing variances on a regional or watershed basis.

The Corps established a national vegetation removal policy in the wake of the failure of levees during Hurricane Katrina. According to Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), the [C]orps ...

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As previously blogged about here, on December 9, 2011, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (Services) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (PDF) in the Federal Register that will, if adopted, change the Services' standards for listing and delisting species as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by re-interpreting the definitions of "threatened" and "endangered" species in the ESA.

In a letter to the Director of the Fish and Wildlife Service (PDF) dated January 26, 2012, Congressman Markey, the ranking ...

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President Obama announced a government consolidation plan that would involve transferring parts of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA"), which is currently part of the Department of Commerce, to the Department of the Interior.  NOAA oversees marine wildlife, including endangered marine species.  The Fish and Wildlife Service, which is an agency within Interior, oversees freshwater species and land-dwelling wildlife.  In his remarks regarding the proposed consolidation, President Obama, suggested that having the two agencies that conduct oversight ...

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In response to a letter from two local congressmen (PDF), Republicans from the Natural Resources Water and Power Subcommittee have scheduled an oversight hearing to examine the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s recent designation of critical habitat for the Santa Ana sucker (Catostomus santaanae).  As reported on this blog, the Service published a final rule (Dec. 14, 2010) designating critical habitat for the Santa Ana sucker, a small fish species occurring in southern California.  The Final Rule designates nearly 10,000 acres in the Santa Ana and San Gabriel rivers and Big Tujunga ...

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On October 13, 2011, the Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight to the Committee on Science, Space, and Technology of the U.S. House of Representatives held a hearing on the nexus of science and policy related to the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  According to a press release issued by the House, the purpose of the hearing was to "highlight how science is used in policy decisions that are made under [the ESA]."  The witnesses at the hearing were:

  • Mr. Gary Frazer, Assistant Director, Endangered Species, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • The Honorable Craig Manson, General ...
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Nossaman’s Endangered Species Law & Policy blog focuses on news, events, and policies affecting endangered species issues in California and throughout the United States. Topics include listing and critical habitat decisions, conservation and recovery planning, inter-agency consultation, and related developments in law, policy, and science. We also inform readers about regulatory and legislative developments, as well as key court decisions.

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