According to the Boone and Crockett Club, one of the most significant pieces of legislation in the history of wildlife conservation, now almost 50 years old, is undergoing much-needed steps toward modernization to improve efficiency. Secretary of the Interior, David Bernard, today signed new Endangered Species Act (ESA) rules that increase transparency, make it easier for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) to work with the states and give landowners more opportunities to promote conservation for imperiled species.
Teddy Roosevelt was the founder of the Boone & Crockett Club.
“We welcome the actions taken today by the Secretary and his staff,” said Timothy C Brady, president of the Boone and Crockett Club. “The most powerful changes made today open the possibility of positive action to restore listed species.”
The new rules include a provision for protections that will enable the Service to identify, at the time a threatened species is listed, the beneficial actions already being taken by states and private entities to help declining species. The rules also include a similar provision by which the Service will consider beneficial actions when evaluating federal activities, as well as create incentives for private funds and actions to go to species conservation in return for assurances against ESA penalties.
“One of the ESA’s shortcomings has been a clear pathway where the Service can collaborate with state experts who are working on the ground where species live.” explained Brady. “Another is incentivizing private landowners, allowing them to participate instead of being shut out of species recovery and security efforts. The new rules are a common sense approach to addressing both of these limitations.”
Other improvements cited by the Club include clarity in the responsibilities of the Service, designation of unoccupied critical habitat, standards for delisting, bundling of related analyses, and basic definitions, all designed to eliminate confusion and misguided litigation.
“As pleased as we are to see this progress, these changes are still limited to options available within the current outdated law,” Brady concluded. “There is much more work to do. The ESA itself needs modernization to catch up to modern developments in ecology and management, such as the establishment of a priority system to replace the unscientific blanket requirement that all listing decisions be made within one year.”