Posts tagged Regulatory Reform.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) is systematically revising species recovery plans issued under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  On August 6, 2019, USFWS published three notices of availability announcing public comment periods on its draft revisions to 70 recovery plans covering 121 species across the United States ...

In the Fall 2017 publication of the Unified Agenda of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Department of the Interior announced its intent to revise the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s regulations governing interagency cooperation and exceptions to the conservation of endangered and threatened species of fish, wildlife, and plants. In a separate announcement in the same publication, the Department of the Interior stated that it intends to revise regulations governing the listing of endangered and threatened species and the designation of critical ...

On October 25, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) released a report entitled Review of the Department of the Interior Actions that Potentially Burden Domestic Energy identifying agency actions that potentially burden the development or use of domestic energy resources.  This report, generated in response to Executive Order 13783, identifies several costly and burdensome regulations that DOI believes hamper the production or transmission of domestic energy.  The report pays particular attention to the oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy sectors, and ...

In furtherance of the administration's broad infrastructure initiative, President Trump on August 15 signed an executive order (EO) entitled Establishing Discipline and Accountability in the Environmental Review and Permitting Process for Infrastructure Projects.  The EO directs federal agencies to make coordinated, predictable, transparent, and timely decisions with the goal of completing all federal environmental reviews and authorization decisions for major infrastructure projects within two years.  Infrastructure project is defined by the EO to encompass ...

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 ...

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) recently announced a proposed policy establishing credits for voluntary prelisting conservation actions for imperiled species. The policy is intended to establish an additional measure for encouraging and awarding voluntary actions to protect species that may be listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The new policy would apply in two possible situations. For non-federal actions that may harm listed species and require a take permit under section 10 of the ESA, the policy would credit actions taken ...

After a heated markup hearing on Wednesday, the House Natural Resources Committee voted to send four bills that would amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. All four bills were sponsored by Republican representatives, and the Committee voted almost exclusively upon partisan lines, with Republicans voting for and Democrats voting against sending the bills to the full House. One Democrat, Representative Jim Costa (D-Calif.), voted in support of H.R. 4315, voicing his opinion that [i]t’s past time for targeted reforms to the ...

The House Natural Resources Committee has scheduled a full Committee markup of four bills intended to bring additional transparency to the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The markup, which involves committee debates, amendments, and rewrites of the proposed legislation, is scheduled for this Wednesday, April 30, 2014. The Committee will be reviewing four ESA reform bills introduced last month. As we reported here, the bills would amend the ESA as follows:


H.R. 4315 (21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act) – Introduced by Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash); the bill would ...

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 ...

December 28, 2013 marked the 40th birthday of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which was signed into law by President Richard Nixon on December 28, 1973. According to Sally Jewell, the Secretary of the Interior: This landmark law has helped to stop the slide toward extinction of hundreds of species. Along the way, we have strengthened partnerships among states, tribes, local communities, private landowners and other stakeholders to find conservation solutions that work for both listed species and economic development. Supporters of the Act credit it for bringing several ...

Last week, the House Natural Resources Committee held its fifth oversight hearing on the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Entitled ESA Decisions by Closed-Door Settlement: Short-Changing Science, Transparency, Private Property, and State & Local Economies, the hearing included over a dozen Republican witnesses, with only three Democrats.


At the hearing, critics of the ESA urged reform to ensure that the statute’s focus is on recovering species and science, rather than litigation. Referencing the landmark 2011 settlement between Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and the ...

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 ...

 The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) today issued (pdf) a draft Oregon Greater Sage-Grouse Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (LUP Amendment/EIS) for the Oregon Sub-Region.  Once finalized, the LUP Amendment/EIS will cover over 10 million acres of sage-grouse habitat in the species’ Oregon range.

The draft LUP Amendment/EIS is one of fifteen separate planning efforts being undertaken as part of the National Greater Sage-Grouse Planning Strategy.  As we previously reported, BLM has already issued the draft LUP Amendment/EIS for the Nevada and Northeast ...

On November 1, 2013, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), as lead agency, and the U.S. Forest Service (Service), as cooperating agency, issued the Nevada and Northeast California Greater Sage-Grouse Draft Land Use Plan Amendment and Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).  The EIS evaluates six alternatives for land use plan management amendments (LUPA) focusing on conservation measures covering approximately 17.7 million acres of land administered by BLM and the Service in Nevada and northeast California spanning 16 Nevada counties, four California counties, and one ...

On September 4, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service (collectively, the Services) issued a proposal rule to amend the regulations governing consultation under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) that would codify the practice of using surrogates to express the amount of extent of anticipated take in an incidental take statement issued concomitant with a biological opinion. The Services indicate that these changes are proposed to improve the flexibility and clarify the development of incidental take statements.

Section ...

On August 28, 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule (pdf) adopting an incremental approach to preparing an economic impact analysis required for a critical habitat designation under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As a practical matter, this assessment will primarily consist of analyzing the cost of the time other federal agencies must take to consult with the wildlife agencies before authorizing activities within critical habitat. The analysis will largely ignore the underlying costs of listing a ...

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 ...

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 ...

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for registering pesticides under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). As part of this process, the EPA must ensure that the use of the pesticide will not cause any unreasonable adverse effects on the environment, including species protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and designated critical habitat for such species. Often, in order to comply with the ESA, the EPA must consult with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to ...

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) recently proposed merging its Southwest and Northwest administrative regions, which would result in a savings of $3 million annually in management costs. NMFS is a component of the Department of Commerce, and is responsible for administering the Endangered Species Act as it applies to marine species and their habitats.  Currently, the NMFS Southwest region manages California, and the Northwest region covers Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Obama administration proposed the merger to improve coordination in areas where there ...

In a recently issued draft biological opinion (PDF) , the National Marine Fisheries Service (Service) has concluded that EPA's registration of products containing the herbicides oryzalin, pendimethalin, and tricluralin is likely to jeopardize the survival of approximately half of the Pacific salmonid populations listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The draft biological opinion is the latest milestone in a series of controversial ESA section 7 consultations between the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Service regarding EPA's ...

Today, 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).  See Draft Policy on Interpretation of the Phrase ‘‘Significant Portion of Its Range’’ in the Endangered Species Act’s Definitions of ‘‘Endangered Species’’ and ‘‘Threatened Species.’’ 76 Fed. Reg. 76,987 (Dec. 9, 2011). 

Under the ...

The House of Representatives Natural Resources Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on December 6, 2011 regarding the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The hearing is expected to focus on how litigation involving the ESA is costing jobs, impacting the economy, and preventing species recovery.

According to Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), the committee’s chairman, the hearing will be the first of many that the Natural Resources Committee will hold to examine both the strengths and weaknesses of the ESA. Hastings has said that the law is failing to achieve its fundamental goal of ...

The California Legislature has sent to the Governor legislation authorizing the Department of Fish and Game to permit the incidental take of 36 fully protected species pursuant to a natural community conservation plan approved by the Department. (Senate Bill 618 (Wolk).) The legislation, in effect, gives fully protected species the same level of protection as is provided under the Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCP Act) for endangered and threatened species. (Cal. Fish & Game Code § 2835.)  The legislation removes a significant regulatory barrier to the ...

On July 27, 2011, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings announced that the Committee will "move forward" in the fall to examine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in an effort to reauthorize the law.  Chairman Hastings issued his statement shortly after the House passed an amendment offered by Rep. Norm Dicks to the FY 2012 Interior Appropriations Bill that restored funding to the ESA's listing program.  The original spending bill would have eliminated funding for the processing of petitions, preparation of 12-month findings, and issuance of final rules ...

Over 38 members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced the Government Litigation Savings Act (H.R. 1996) to amend provisions of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA) to limit recovery of attorneys’ fees and other expenses in cases brought against federal agencies.

EAJA was passed in 1980 to help individuals, groups or businesses with limited access to financial resources defend themselves against harmful government actions. Under EAJA, plaintiffs who prevail on their claims against the federal government may seek recovery of attorneys’ fees and certain ...

On June 16, 2011, the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released a draft of its scientific integrity policy (pdf).  The policy comes in response to President Obama’s March 9, 2009 memorandum directing the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) to consult with relevant executive departments and agencies to recommend a plan to achieve the highest level of integrity in all aspects of the executive branch’s involvement with scientific and technological processes.  Director of OSTP John Holdren issued further guidance on scientific integrity in a ...

On June 13, 2011, President Obama and Vice President Biden announced the Administration’s Campaign to Cut Waste. As part of that campaign, the Administration is seeking to eliminate a multitude of websites the government now maintains.  Both the President and Vice President singled out a website dedicated to the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) – a species native to the southwest and listed (pdf) as threatened under the Endangered Species Act -- as one example of the type of government waste they intend to eliminate.  The media has reported frustration in response to the ...

The House Committee on Natural Resources is set to hold hearings on a bill that will allow for the lethal removal of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) caught eating endangered salmon and steelhead just below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act (H.R. 946), introduced in March 2011, would allow the states of Washington and Oregon, and four local tribal organizations, to get year-long leases to lethally remove a limited number of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead listed as endangered under the Endangered ...

The White House recently unveiled plans to improve the federal regulatory system developed in response to an Executive Order issued by President Obama, which include a proposal by the Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service to improve administration of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  The proposal is reproduced in Departmental workplans submitted by both Interior (pdf) and Commerce (pdf).  It includes the following actions:

  • Minimize requirements for written descriptions of critical habitat boundaries in favor of map- and internet-based ...

The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1 (pdf), a spending bill, on February 19, 2011, that includes a rider to foreclose use of funds appropriated by Congress to implement Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives (RPAs) developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to accompany biological opinions and jeopardy determinations made by those agencies under the federal Endangered Species Act regarding the ongoing operation of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in California.  The biological opinions ...

On February 10, 2011, EPA Region 9 issued an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking for Water Quality Challenges in the San Francisco Bay/Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Estuary ("Advanced Notice") (pdf).  EPA is not proposing any specific Clean Water Act ("CWA") rulemaking at this time.  Instead, EPA proposes to assess "the effectiveness of current programs designed to protect water quality and aquatic species habitat in the San Francisco Bay / Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta in California . . . ."  Fact Sheet (pdf).  According to EPA Region 9 Administrator Jared ...

Sacramento River and Adjacent FarmlandIn a letter to the President's Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), 18 members of Congress urged the Obama Administration to "ensure that NMFS, EPA, the Department of the Interior, USDA, and DOJ work together" to strengthen the modeling and to use the best scientific and commercially available information to re-evaluate existing biological opinions (BiOps) and to inform forthcoming BiOps for EPA pesticide registrations.

The members of Congress claim that the existing BiOps, which prohibit the application of certain pesticides to cropland within certain buffer zones adjacent to streams, rivers, wetlands, and floodplain habitat to protect threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead, "will force family farmers out of business and devastate rural communities and trade throughout the districts we represent, while crippling our food production capacity for the foreseeable future."  According to the authors, the BiOps issued to date expand existing buffer zones to such a great extent that "it would affect millions of acres in the Northwest and California, including a staggering 61 percent of farmland in Washington state and 55 percent in Oregon."

The 18 members of Congress argue that the consultation process between the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) and EPA for the first of the pesticide BiOps (issued in November 2008) was flawed because it lacked transparency, consultation with the agricultural community, and the opportunity for public comment.  More fundamentally, they argue that NMFS's consultation for all three of the existing BiOps ignored the best available scientific and commercial data on the prevalence of the pesticides in salmon spawning waterways.

The letter's authors cite a September 2008 letter from EPA's Director of Pesticide Programs to NMFS, which criticized the July 31, 2008 draft BiOp for failing to disclose NMFS's rationale for its determination that use of chlorpyrifos, diazinon, and malathion will jeopardize the continued existence of dozens of listed salmonids in California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.  In the September 2008 letter, EPA also complained that it could not meaningfully discuss the proposed Reasonable and Prudent Alternative because the BiOp "fails to identify a level of exposure to these pesticides that would not result, in NMFS['s] opinion, in jeopardy to the species."

As explained in more detail below, the letter's authors are especially concerned that the administration orchestrate future interagency consultations as well as consultations with the agriculture industry and other stakeholders because EPA faces a host of other court-mandated deadlines to determine whether other pesticide registrations may affect listed species, and if so, to consult.

Senator Lois Wolk has introduced two separate bills into the California Senate to amend the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) and Natural Community Conservation Planning Act (NCCPA).

SB 1303, as amended, would amend section 2087 of the California Fish and Game Code, which exempts otherwise lawful routine and ongoing agricultural activities from the take prohibitions established by CESA. Routine and ongoing agricultural activities are defined by regulation to include, among other things, any practices performed by a farmer on a farm as incident to or in conjunction with ...

Assemblyman Jared Huffman has introduced Assembly Bill 2420 (PDF) to amend the provisions of the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) that allow persons who obtain incidental take authorization under the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), to also obtain take authorization from the Director of the California Department of Fish and Game for species listed under both laws, provided the Director determines that such federal take authorization is consistent with CESA.

AB 2420 would revise section 2080.1 of the California Fish and Game Code. As presently written, that section ...

On March 10, 2010, the Center for Biological Diversity submitted a letter (PDF) on behalf of 50 conservation groups encouraging the Secretaries of the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce to adopt a radical new definition of adverse modification of critical habitat.  The proposed definition differs in two ways from the current regulatory definition; one uncontroversial and benign, while the other is likely to be controversial and far-reaching.

Currently, adverse modification is defined by regulation as a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of critical habitat for both the survival and recovery of a listed species.  The groups would have adverse modification of critical habitat be defined as a direct or indirect alteration that appreciably diminishes the value of any portion of any area of designated critical habitat for either the survival or recovery of a listed species, with appreciably diminishes defined as any action that would destroy or degrade any primary constituent element such that the habitat would be, measurably or perceptibly, of less value to the species.  As explained below, the change to either . . . or would be benign; but the proposed addition of any portion of any area could dramatically alter the way the Services administer Section 7 of the ESA.

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.

Stay Connected

RSS RSS Feed

Categories

Archives

View All Nossaman Blogs
Jump to Page

We use cookies on this website to improve functionality, enhance performance, analyze website traffic and to enable social media features.  To learn more, please see our Privacy Policy and our Terms & Conditions for additional detail.