5 May 2011, 2:27pm
Endangered Specious Homo sapiens Wildlife Agencies
by admin

The ESA Has Failed

Note: the following letter from member organizations of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP) [here] to Sec Int Ken Salazar points out multiple failures of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and calls on the Federal Government (all Branches) to “review and modernize” the ESA.

May 2, 2011

To The Honorable Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240

Dear Secretary Salazar: The undersigned organizations are members of the American Wildlife Conservation Partners (AWCP), which represents millions of Americans who actively hunt and fish and support fish and wildlife conservation. We believe the time has come for Congress and the Department of the Interior to review and modernize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) so that it can more effectively recover species, better focus the Department’s limited resources, reduce and discourage costly litigation and lessen the regulatory burden on businesses to foster job creation. At the recent North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference in Kansas City, Missouri, you called for the ESA to be reformed, saying the Act was “unmanageable and unproductive.”

The primary goal of the ESA has been to recover species at risk of extinction. Unfortunately the ESA has failed in its species recovery efforts. Currently there are over 2000 species listed as “threatened” or “endangered” while only 20 recovered species have been removed from these lists since the ESA was enacted. A key example of this is the gray wolf in the Northern Rocky Mountains and Western Great Lakes. By all possible counts, these gray wolf populations have greatly exceeded their recovery goals and should be lauded as one of the ESA’s few great successes. Ironically, the ESA itself has now become the barrier to delisting these recovered wolves. Protectionist organizations have persuaded the courts to interpret the language of the ESA in such a way that delisting these recovered animals has become impossible. Congressional action outside of the ESA has become necessary to deal with the ESA’s failure.

Gray wolves, which continue to be listed under the ESA, are so abundant that they are decimating elk herds and are mercilessly attacking livestock and pets. Public confidence in the ESA and wolf conservation is plummeting among the communities who must live with wolf populations. Without public support, recovery efforts for endangered and threatened species are bound to fail. For these reasons, the undersigned groups encourage the Department of Interior (DOI) and Congress to work together to review and modernize the ESA so that recovery and delisting of recovered species are properly prioritized and so that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries Service can carry out their recovery and delisting obligations expeditiously and without unnecessary and burdensome litigation.

Vulnerability to litigation also threatens to undermine the ESA. Presently, the vast majority of the scientific decisions for species conservation are inappropriately being made by the courts, not the wildlife professionals within the federal agencies tasked to administer the ESA. Litigation is dictating the FWS and NMFS’ priorities for dealing with species in jeopardy and depleting the agencies’ personnel and financial resources. Millions of dollars are paid from the U.S. government to lawyers who represent non-profit organizations with multi-million dollar budgets. These groups have turned frivolous ESA litigation into a fundraising bonanza. Litigation reform is absolutely necessary to restore the ESA’s effectiveness. The undersigned groups believe that Congress should review the attorney fee provisions of ESA as well as other fee-shifting provisions applicable to ESA litigation to reduce windfall fees being paid to affluent non-profit corporations. In addition, DOI and Congress should amend these fee shifting provisions so that prevailing parties must use these awards exclusively for true wildlife conservation instead of as membership incentives or fuel for additional litigation.

The ESA also fails the American public by detrimentally impacting jobs and the economy, particularly in rural communities. There are numerous examples of sustainable human development projects with carefully planned wildlife mitigation measures being blocked and private property rights being infringed by the ESA. While protecting species and promoting biological diversity are vital, these aspirations cannot come at the price of a family not being able to put food on the table or an entire region being forced to lay fallow as promised irrigation water is diverted by judicial fiat. As mentioned above, public confidence is essential to the success of species conservation. When the public perceives that the ESA places species above personal livelihoods and the faltering economy, the public’s support for the ESA’s goals will further dwindle. The DOI and Congress must review the ESA to determine whether there are ways to reduce the ESA’s drag on the economy and recalibrate the ESA’s balance between protecting species and economic growth. To maintain public and business support, DOI and Congress must modernize the ESA to significantly reduce regulatory burdens and to promote economic development while continuing to protect at-risk species.

Instead of expanding the reach of the ESA, DOI and Congress must restrict the law to its original goal – species recovery. The ESA should not be used as a tool to regulate greenhouse gasses. Radical anti-hunting and protectionist organizations, such as the Center for Biological Diversity, the Humane Society of the United States and the Sierra Club, have spent millions of dollars in an effort to manipulate the mandates of the ESA to list animals for the express purpose of regulating greenhouse gases. The ESA is not the correct vehicle for regulating greenhouse gas emissions. Not only do these applications distort the purpose of the ESA, but they stretch the administrative capacities and scientific expertise of the FWS and National Marine Fisheries Service far beyond their limits. It is vital that DOI and Congress address this critical issue before the agencies becomes so overloaded that conservation comes to an absolute standstill and before public confidence in the goals of the ESA completely fails. While it may be necessary to fund wildlife habitat adaptation due to climate change, it is imperative that the ESA not be manipulated to regulate something for which it was never intended.

Finally, the DOI and Congress should review and repair inconsistencies between FWS policies, international treaties and ESA permit procedures to eliminate regulatory burdens wherever possible. For instance DOI and Congress should review whether to maintain the ESA’s “enhancement” requirement for permitting. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), of which the U.S. is a party, uses non-detriment findings exclusively to determine whether international trade of a species is allowed. The FWS imposes an additional burdensome requirement that trade in a species “enhances the survival of that species” before it will issue import permits for threatened and endangered species even if allowed under CITES. The additional enhancement finding requirement by FWS is a significant burden to international hunting, which has been shown to be the most effective means of funding sustainable wildlife conservation in developing countries. Hunting is vital to the economies of developing nations because it results in high revenues, most of which remain in the local economy and are used to support wildlife conservation efforts. It has been reported that hunting generates U.S. $200 million annually in remote rural areas of twenty-three African countries. Hunting operations in Africa contribute funding and resources to conserve wildlife on 540,000 square miles, which is 22% more land than is found in the national parks of Africa. The additional substantive and bureaucratic burdens imposed by the FWS discourage U.S. hunters from engaging in sustainable use wildlife conservation in developing countries thus undermining foreign species conservation efforts. The undersigned groups believe that DOI and Congress should review these inconsistencies and find solutions that reduce regulatory burdens to hunting while still proactively using the ESA to protect at-risk wildlife.

We suggest that DOI and Congress establish a working group of wildlife professionals consisting of federal agency biologists and selected AWCP professionals to develop an improved science-based revision of the ESA. We welcome the opportunity to work with you to secure the future of wildlife while reducing the unintended consequences and unnecessary burdens that are caused when recovering species. AWCP members have spent generations working to protect wildlife and hope that we can assist to secure that future.


Archery Trade Association
Bowhunting Preservation Alliance
Campfire Club of America
Catch-a-Dream Foundation
Conservation Force
Dallas Safari Club
Masters of Foxhounds Association
Mule Deer Foundation
National Association of Forest Service Retirees
National Trappers Association
North American Bear Foundation
Pope & Young Club
Quality Deer Management Association
Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation
Safari Club International
Shikar Safari Club International
Texas Wildlife Association
Wild Sheep Foundation
Whitetails Unlimited

CC: Acting - Director Gould,
CC: Majority & Minority Senate Leadership
CC: House Speaker, Majority & Minority Leader
CC: Congressional Sportsmen’s Caucus



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