Endangered Species Act Reform

The Endangered Species Act dates to 1973, and its legislative intention was, and still is, to provide a program that will protect plant and animal imperiled species from becoming extinct.  It is NAIOP’s intention to find a balance between this mandate and economic development.

The
Issue

Faced with the possible extinction of various species of animal and plant life, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1973. The Act established a process to designate a plant or animal as being in danger of extinction, protecting that species from further decline and devising a strategy for its recovery. Unfortunately, the ESA, though well intentioned, has been largely unsuccessful in conserving the species it was meant to protect. In addition, its enforcement has, at times, resulted in dire economic consequences for the communities and landowners who have been affected by it.

Position

NAIOP supports the goals of protecting our nation's treasured species that are on the brink of extinction. However, we feel that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is in need of reform. Currently, there is a lack of reliable data analysis in the decision making process for endangered species protection. There is a great need to establish greater scientific standards that are peer reviewed for all ESA listing and de-listing proposals to ensure the use of sound science and to provide a mechanism for resolving scientific disputes. Additionally, we believe that the Secretary of the Interior should be required to solicit and obtain additional data from landowners and others that would assist in the development of recovery plans, including the recovery goals. The process should also compensate property owners when they are substantially deprived of the economically viable use of their property because of ESA restrictions. NAIOP feels that landowner incentives and cooperative agreements are the best way to recover endangered species. These agreements and incentives would be best implemented through individual state programs allowing for local participation and expertise.

Status

During a previous session of Congress, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies passed an appropriations bill that would block new listings for endangered species and critical habitats for fiscal year 2014. Ultimately, the House amended the language to reinstate the funding before the final appropriation was passed.

Hearings have been held by the House Natural Resources Committee on reforming the Endangered Species Act and it is strongly possible that a review of the legislation will be undertaken in the 115th Congress.

Talking
Points

  • A balance must exist between economic development and environmental protection.
  • Endangered species listing should be focused on the use of sound scientific data that has been field-tested or peer reviewed.
  • Comprehensive ESA reform should include opportunities for state and local governments, as well as for the public, to have a greater input in the listing process.
  • Economic consequences should be taken into consideration when listing a species.
  • Private property owners should be compensated for being deprived of substantial economic use of their property due to a species listing.
  • Greater efforts must be made in recovering listed species.