NESARC Applauds Improvements to ESA Implementation

12 August 2019

(WASHINGTON, DC) — The National Endangered Species Act Reform Coalition (NESARC) applauds the Administration’s release of the most significant improvements to regulations implementing the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in decades. These modifications will allow for a more effective administration of Sections 4 and 7 of the ESA and address some of the uncertainty and lack of predictability in current implementation of the law.

“The rules are pragmatic and long overdue,” said NESARC Chairman Ryan Yates. “They provide landowners and the regulated community certainty in how they undertake their day-to-day activities in a manner that protects and recovers imperiled species and the ecosystems upon which they depend.”

The regulations offer welcomed changes to implementation of Section 4, which focuses on listing species and designating critical habitat. In particular, designation of unoccupied critical habitat has increasingly become a significant issue for landowners. The final rule clarifies the evaluation of unoccupied areas for classification of critical habitat by first requiring consideration of occupied areas and then requiring that unoccupied areas contain one or more physical or biological features that are essential to the conservation of the species. “These revisions will provide increased certainty around when and how critical habitat is designated,” Yates said.

Improvements to the Section 7 consultation regulations address some of the fundamental problems that have been widely identified over the years. Simply, the consultation process has not worked for species, the federal government, or the regulated community for decades. Federal agencies are overloaded and have needed a better process to help manage the level and scope of required reviews. The final rule implements a number of needed revisions to streamline the process for project proponents and clarifies key definitions that have been difficult to implement.

“The current consultation process is inefficient and can result in unmanageable delays in project development,” noted NESARC Executive Director Jordan Smith. “For large or complicated projects, consultations can take several years to complete. These delays and associated uncertainty have significant monetary impacts for project proponents that can affect the viability of a project. The final rule removes obstacles that have prevented the completion of the consultation process in an efficient and timely manner.”

“Over the past 45 years, federal agencies and project proponents have become more sophisticated in approaches to conservation and the nuances of species conservation issues. The updates to these implementing regulations will provide greater clarity and efficiency, while maintaining critical core protections of the ESA” Smith said.

NESARC is the country’s oldest broad-based, national coalition dedicated solely to achieving improvements to the ESA and its implementation. The Coalition includes agricultural interests, cities and counties, conservationists, electric utilities, energy producers, farmers, forest product companies, home builders, oil and gas companies, ranchers, realtors, water and irrigation districts, and other businesses and individuals throughout the United States. NESARC and its members are committed to promoting effective and balanced legislative and administrative improvements to the ESA that support the protection of fish, wildlife, and plant populations as well as responsible land, water, and resource management.