Lummis on ESA: ‘Throwing money at a failure’Written by Christy Martinez
According to Representative Cynthia Lummis, the Endangered Species Act will be affected by the Interior Appropriations Bill that is pending on the floor of the U.S. House.
“WildEarth Guardians has filed 251 petitions, one of which has 404 species, to request for listing under ESA,” says Lummis. “These groups have run completely amok, and have tied the Fish and Wildlife Service in knots.”
Lummis says that, in settling a matter with WildEarth Guardians, the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) agreed to pay their attorneys fees.
“That’s part of the ongoing problem with environmental groups that have become litigation shops,” she states, adding that, for the first time, the authorizing committees and appropriators are meeting together to talk about what can be done about the situation.
“ESA authorization expired 20 years ago, and it’s never been reauthorized, even though it’s continued to be funded,” explains Lummis. “Mike Simpson of Idaho has agreed they won’t put money in the budget to fund new listings – they’ll only put enough money into the FWS budget for the petitions that have already been filed so they can clear up the backlog of listings, without listing any more species.”
However, Lummis says the interesting thing is that, when the amendment got to the floor of the House, another amendment was passed on the floor that struck the provision that would limit funding to only previously filed backlogs of petitions.
“The interesting thing, though, is that there is no new money attached to that amendment, so the agency is still only funded at a lower level that would reflect only the money needed to clear up the backlog,” states Lummis. “The Senate will have to either reinstate the House language, or add more money.”
Lummis says the reason she and others feel it’s appropriate to begin to defund federal agencies and federal actions whose authorizations have lapsed is to force people to the table.
“As long as the Appropriations Committee keeps funding these programs that have lapsed, there’s no reason for reform,” she says. “Another program and agency whose authorization has lapsed is the BLM, and we funded BLM this time because Simpson wanted to do that, but he has pointed out that the reason we’re doing this is to bring people to the table to reform these programs, starting with ESA and from there he might go to BLM.”
“It’s a wonderful mechanism to finally bring people to the table to update and modernize these programs,” she continues. ”Only one percent of species listed under ESA have been both recovered and delisted, and I think a program with only a one percent success rate is a failure. Why do we keep funding programs with such a low rate of success?”
Lummis says that, to make the ESA a success, a species should be delisted and turned over to management of the states when it’s recovered.
“Otherwise, we’re just throwing more money at a failure,” she says.