February 23, 2005

Crapo: Endangered Species Act Reform Can Start With Critical Habitat DESIGNATION

Senator holds D.C. hearing on reforms to federal process

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo accelerated efforts to reform the federal Endangered Species Act today at a hearing examining the process under which critical habitat to save species is designated and how the process is managed. Crapo, who presided over the hearing as the chairman of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over ESA reform, is continuing what he calls â??rifle shot reformsâ?? to the ESA. Crapo says that â??wholesale reforms to the ESA are simply not politically possible but there are some specific reforms that can garner enough votes to pass. The critical habitat designation process may well be one of those possible reforms.â??Crapo said reforming the way federal officials deal with the designation of critical habitat is one area that is ripe for reforms, and he took note of S. 1100, a bill he introduced four years ago with Senator Pete Domenici (R-NM), and the late John Chafee (R-RI). That bill changing the timing of determining critical habitat to be part of species recovery planning did not pass, and Crapo said Congressâ?? failure to act on such reforms has led to court cases and administrative gridlock instead of species recovery and cooperation with land owners.â??Just a few weeks ago, Fish and Wildlife Service Director Steve Williams testified before this subcommittee with respect to the Serviceâ??s fiscal 2004 budget request. Before its budget request was even printed, the Service became subject to additional court orders and other unanticipated judicially-enforceable deadlines rendering the budget request inadequate,â?? Crapo said in opening todayâ??s hearing.â??Congress is failing its responsibility to conserve and recover listed species by allowing court-ordered critical habitat designations. These designations admittedly have very few conservation benefits, and devour more than half of the budget for listing new species each year,â?? he added. â??I sincerely hope that this subcommittee and the full Environment and Public Works Committee has the will to work together to address this and some of the other very serious problems with the Endangered Species Act.â??Some witnesses testifying today agreed that, because critical habitat designation is the only place in the Act in which economic impacts are considered, the Fish & Wildlife Service needs to improve the manner in which it conducts economic impact analysis. The Service has been sued and the courts have agreed that the Serviceâ??s methodology for conducting economic impact analysis in inadequate. University of California Berkeley Ag Economics professor David Sunding, for example, questioned how the agency could determine habitat issues without a better analysis of related economic impacts. # # #