SAFARI CLUB INTERNATIONAL supports major proposed revisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to its Endangered Species Act regulations.
“At long last, we have leadership that recognizes the importance of flexibility in the conservation of federally listed wildlife and the recognition that different approaches, including sustainable use, can be used to recover and sustain the world’s wildlife,” said SCI President Paul Babaz.
Of the many proposed changes, SCI generally supports the proposals to provide more flexibility to the management and recovery of threatened species and to modify how the agency establishes the “foreseeable future” when making threatened listing decisions.
Under one proposal, the USFWS would decide on a species-by-species basis what, if any, ESA prohibitions would apply to each species listed as threatened. The ESA itself applies these prohibitions (e.g., regarding take and import) only to endangered species. Congress envisioned that the USFWS would decide individually what prohibitions applied to each particular threatened species.
But the USFWS long ago adopted a blanket rule that the statutory prohibitions would automatically apply to all threatened species, unless the USFWS adopted a “special rule” specific to a particular species that spelled out what restrictions applied.
The USFWS’s sister agency in implementing the ESA, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), followed Congressional intent and did not adopt the blanket rule. The USFWS’s proposal would align it with NMFS and Congressional intent.
The USFWS’s proposal would ensure that, moving forward, all threatened species receive the level of protection that is appropriate for each species. This approach will free-up limited resources for more targeted and efficient recovery of threatened and endangered species.
SCI also supports the USFWS’s consideration of revisions to how it establishes the “foreseeable future.” The ESA defines a threatened species as one that is likely to become an endangered species within the “foreseeable future.”
Under the proposed change, the foreseeable future would extend only as far as the agency can reasonably determine that both the future threats and the species’ responses to those threats are “probable.” Although refinement of this proposal may be necessary, SCI hopes that whatever the USFWS adopts will help avoid future threatened listings such as the unwarranted listing of the polar bear, which used an excessive 45-year foreseeable future.
Other proposed changes include streamlining critical habitat designations, modifying ESA consultation requirements for other federal agencies, and clarifying how the agencies make decisions to delist species.
—TF&G Staff Report
A LANDMARK CONGRESSIONAL conservation proposal is gaining traction nationwide and in Texas, with more than a half dozen Texas co-sponsors on both sides of the aisle. The bipartisan Recovering America’s Wildlife Act, H.R. 4647, would bring an estimated $63 million per year to Texas, part of $1.3 billion nationwide from existing energy and mineral development royalties on federal lands and waters. A companion Senate bill, S. 3223, was introduced July 17.
The proposal is backed by The Alliance for America’s Fish & Wildlife, a national grass roots coalition with a sizeable Texas chapter. Supporters include government, business, industry, education and conservation leaders united to combat the decline of native species and natural habitats, a problem that affects people and the economy as well as fish and wildlife.
Scientists estimate that one-third of America’s wildlife species are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered unless their populations and habitats are stabilized. That includes more than 1,300 nongame fish and wildlife species in Texas.
The act would not require taxpayers or businesses to pay more, but would direct existing funds to invest in fish and wildlife conservation. The House bill includes $1.3 billion in automatic annual funding. The Senate bill uses the same funding mechanism but requires annual approval by Congress. Allocations would follow a formula based on a state’s human population size and land area. Texas would receive the maximum allowed, 5 percent, or $63 million.
“For Texas, the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act would mean transformative change for people and wildlife, the kind of breakthrough that comes once in a generation,” said Carter Smith, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department executive director.