Sunday, August 3, 2014

Wolf Conservation Center Opposes [H.R. 4315] - Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act



SUMMARY POSITION:
H.R. 4315 is package of four dangerous bills that would drastically change the way the Federal government protects endangered and threatened species. HR 4315 would add layers of bureaucracy, waste limited agency resources, and divert efforts to recover species under the Endangered Species Act. Of specific concern, the bill would require federal agencies to publish on the internet all data used in ESA listing determinations. Such a requirement would limit the amount and quality of information supporting ESA decisions by discouraging data sharing by scientists, State and local governments, and particularly private landowners, who do not want their information disclosed online. This provision could also expose vulnerable wildlife and rare plants to increased poaching or vandalism.

H.R. 4315
 requires the Secretary of Interior to make the data used for each ESA listing decision publicly available via the Internet
 would have the effect of discouraging states with privacy laws on their books from sharing their data with government decision makers.
 could discourage scientists and local governments from sharing data with the Fish and Wildlife Service
 would require private landowners and companies to share data associated with their property online
 would provide a roadmap to poachers looking for endangered wildlife

HR 4316
 would require the Secretary to submit an annual report to Congress detailing agency expenditures for “covered suits,” meaning “any civil action” under the ESA against the Department of the Interior, the Forest Service, and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
 will simply exacerbate the alleged problem that the authors of this bill claim it is trying to solve; will divert more resources away from recovery efforts, by now requiring the Department of Interior to report annually on the detailed costs of every citizen suit filed against it under the ESA.

  • If the legislators who drafted this bill complain that environmental groups are filing frivolous lawsuits at taxpayer expense, shouldn’t Congress be held to a similar standard? If so, maybe the agencies should also report how much they are spending, the number of full time employees, and the total number of employee hours spent responding to document requests, subpoenas and hearings from any Member of Congress. 
  • This excessive abuse of the process is expensive for taxpayers and burdensome for agencies. If legislators believe in the merit of these requests, then they should have no trouble asking agencies to report how many taxpayer dollars it is costing them to comply.  


HR 4317
 would redefine “best available science” and require the federal government to accept as the best available science ANY data submitted by a state, tribal, or county government.
 does not require the data to be of a high quality – or even a moderate quality; there is no standard at all.

  • If a county, state, or tribe wanted to submit incomplete or bad data, even that data would be anointed as the best available, regardless of what scientific experts have to say. 
  • This dangerous bill attacks the essential protections that form the very foundation of the ESA. This bill will not improve the recovery of our nation’s most endangered wildlife. Instead, it will undermine the best available science for listing new species, and create new challenges to species recovery. 
  • To weaken the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act is to doom more species to extinction. Scientists know we must protect species because they are working parts of our own life-support system. Once species become extinct, no corrective legislation can bring them back—they are gone forever. 


HR 4318
 would limit the ability of citizens to participate in the Democratic process and hold the government accountable because it places an arbitrary cap on legal fees awarded to prevailing or partially prevailing parties in litigation against the government. The courts decide what are reasonable fees under this and scores of other laws every day, and they have a much better ability to objectively determine what is appropriate.

CONCLUSION:
The Wolf Conservation Center believes H.R. 4315 and its related attached bills can potentially undermine essential protections that form the very foundation of the Endangered Species Act. None of these bills will improve the recovery of our nation’s endangered wildlife. Instead, they reduce the ability of the public to hold gov't agencies accountable for complying with the law, undermine the best available science for listing new species, and create new challenges to species recovery. To weaken the scientific foundation of the Endangered Species Act is to doom more species to extinction.

Please consider joining the WCC in OPPOSING this political attack on our most historically significant environmental law. When you vote to OPPOSE H.R. 4315 via the WCC POPVOX legislative campaign, a message is sent directly to your Senators expressing your opposition.  Vote to OPPOSE here.

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