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.
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.
In 2018, members of the House Western Caucus unveiled their ESA Modernization Package. Comprised of 9 separate bills, the package made several targeted reforms to the ESA, but were not considered by the full House of Representatives. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman John Barrasso (R-WY) released discussion draft legislation as well.
The Trump administration has also proposed regulatory changes to the ESA, most notably a requirement that economic impacts of listing decisions be taken into account.