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Biden’s Endangered Species Regulations are Wreaking Havoc on the West

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

By Sens. Cynthia Lummis, Dan Sullivan and Pete Ricketts

Last year, the Biden administration began the process of unrolling Trump-era Endangered Species Act (ESA) reforms and using the law as a Trojan horse for its restrictive policies which drastically limit landowners and erode our way of life.

The purpose of the ESA is to recover endangered and threatened species and protect their habitats. However, in the time since this administration began its Green New Deal-driven ESA campaign, only two percent of species have been recovered. 

Despite this embarrassingly low recovery rate, the Biden administration has weaponized the ESA, causing significant economic harm in many of our rural communities.

The only thing the Biden administration’s implementation of ESA does is hinder landowners, ranchers and our permitting process for critical infrastructure projects. It may score political points with environmental extremists, but it hurts hardworking Americans in states like ours.

The Trump administration recognized the value in partnering with – not punishing – landowners to restore endangered species. They opted to implement commonsense reforms to the ESA which ensured a critical habitat designation didn’t paralyze landowners.

President Trump realized part of creating a more workable ESA included eliminating the “blanket rule” under Section 4(d) which automatically provides endangered level protections to species listed only as threatened and instead required threatened species to be managed with tailored plans.

It also allowed the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to research and share the economic impacts of a listing determination under the ESA and provided flexibility in defining a critical habitat rather than completely ignoring the economic consequences communities must contend with.

The Trump-era improvements also established standards to ensure analysis for proposed actions was limited only to “activities that are reasonably certain to occur” instead of using hypothetical, worst-case scenarios as a standard which were unlikely to happen.

Regrettably, the Biden administration quickly unraveled these improvements, serving up the ESA as a vehicle for environmental activists to punish landowners and surrounding communities. 

The new rules set forth by Biden’s FWS and NOAA undo these critical reforms. They blow past the economic devastation some communities endure under the ESA’s antiquated policies and once again allow unelected Washington, D.C. bureaucrats to use obscure hypotheticals and fear mongering to appeal their strongest, one-size-fits-all regulations to an area designated as a critical habitat.

Together, we recognize the danger these rule changes pose to property and state’s rights, good-paying jobs and access for hunters, anglers and other outdoor recreationalists across the country. 

This is why we have partnered to use the Congressional Review Act to block this administration from further burdening rural communities.

Farming, ranching, tourism and energy are the lifeblood of our states, and we know better than most, our farmers, ranchers, indigenous communities and landowners are the original conservationists. We want to empower them to be partners in species recovery.

We will not sit back and passively allow this administration’s extreme version of the ESA to be the death knell of local communities bound by its onerous and antiquated policies. It is time to restore the ESA to better meet its original purpose to protect species without punishing rural communities. 

We will continue to promote commonsense reforms until this goal is achieved.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) chairs the Senate Western Caucus and serves on the Environment and Public Works, Banking and Commerce committees. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) also sits on the Environment and Public Works Committee. Sen. Pete Ricketts (R-NE) is a former governor of Nebraska and a member of  Environment and Public Works. This opinion column was originally published on May 15 by AgriPulse.

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