Law & Order

U.S. House of Representatives Tackles Endangered Species Act Reform

By SEMA Washington, D.C., Staff

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee approved four bills to reform aspects of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The bills have been sent to the House floor. The bills would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to release data used to make listings of threatened or endangered animals and plants, report how much money is spent on ESA-related lawsuits and place a cap on plaintiff attorney reimbursement fees.  

Despite agreeing that the law is flawed, Republicans and Democrats are generally deadlocked on how to comprehensively update the 40-year-old ESA. Millions of acres of land have been set aside to protect threatened or endangered animals and plants, with few tangible results beyond lawsuits and attorney fees. Scores of off-highway vehicle (OHV) roads and trails have been unnecessarily closed as a consequence. SEMA supports an alternative approach that focuses on establishing and managing smaller recovery zones.    

The current national debate is on whether to extend protection to the prairie chicken and sage grouse. The territory for the birds spans at least 11 western states and millions of acres of federal and private lands. Federal regulators are currently seeking to provide protective flexibility by entering into special conservation plans that will allow continued land access by oil and gas firms, farmers and ranchers. 

For more information, contact Stuart Gosswein at