The House Committee on Natural Resources advanced a slate of GOP-authored bills aimed at restructuring the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on Thursday.
The committee also passed three Democrat-authored bills that continue the federal government’s use of the James J. Howard Marine Sciences Laboratory, set up a historical monument in Puerto Rico and set up a program to provide federal aid to new businesses on American Indian reservations. (RELATED: Congress Is Overhauling A Law That Sacrifices Americans’ Livelihoods For Endangered Animals)
“These bills honor our heritage, lighten regulatory burdens for communities, increase transparency, and strengthen relationships between states and the federal government. Ultimately, these bills aim to bolster our country’s natural resources,” committee chairman Republican Rep. Rob Bishop of Utah said in a statement. “I’d like to thank the Western Caucus and my colleagues for helping to move these bills forward.”
Landowners, individuals and companies that operate on government-owned land have blamed the ESA for placing heavy-handed federal regulations that are often difficult to roll back once enacted on an area to protect a species approved for federal protection. Just 3 percent of listed species have been delisted and the regulations set up to protect them rolled back.
The ESA bills introduced reforms geared toward giving more individual, local and state conservation efforts, reforming procedures for listing animals and banning designation of critical habitat from certain key areas.
Environmentalists criticized the bills restructuring the ESA. The GOP-backed bills are a “prescription for extinction,” Defenders of Wildlife senior vice president of conservation programs Robert Dreher told the committee in a Wednesday hearing.
“None of these bills would improve species conservation. Each would undermine the ESA, often dramatically,” Dreher said in his testimony. “If these measures are enacted, species deserving of federal protection will be denied the help they need to survive and recover.”
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