Oppose Bills that Would Harm Endangered Species

Before he leaves office at the end of this year, Rep. Doc Hastings, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, is determined to pass four bills that would seriously harm our nation's endangered species.

These bills, among other things, would allow politicians to determine what is the best available science on important issues — not scientists themselves. The bills would also force wildlife agencies to publicize the denning sites of imperiled species online — which could do far more harm than good, and easily facilitate poaching. For years, Rep. Doc Hastings has attacked the Endangered Species Act in an attempt to weaken it at the expense of the hundreds of animals who rely on it for protection.

Take a stand for wildlife by telling your representative to vote no on Hastings' bills!
To whom it may concern:

The House Natural Resource Committee in April, passed the first wave of bills to emerge from a recent report that outlines a legislative strategy to weaken, or even eliminate, Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections and, ultimately, to increase the likelihood of future extinctions. These bills, expected to come to the House floor soon, are damaging to the ESA and should be opposed.

H.R. 4315 ('21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act') directs the Secretary of the Interior and Secretary of Commerce to post online the 'best scientific and commercial data' underlying each proposed and final determination regarding the potential listing of a species. H.R. 4315 ignores the lack of agency resources to create such an online system involving massive amounts of data. Further, H.R. 4315 fails to account for real-world issues surrounding data sharing and thus would likely do more harm than good. H.R. 4315 ignores situations in which public disclosure of data could further imperil the species at issue — by facilitating poaching, for example. H.R. 4315 could also undermine scientists' work by requiring the release of some data before researchers have had their studies peer reviewed and published. Such a requirement would likely result in fewer scientists being willing to participate in the process of evaluating species' status. All told, this bill will only create bureaucratic hurdles that would likely delay the process of protecting species and distract from legitimate conservation efforts.

H.R. 4316 ('Endangered Species Recovery Transparency Act') would establish a burdensome set of reporting requirements that focus entirely on the costs of ESA enforcement cases without acknowledging or accounting for the important role citizen suits play in protecting species and holding federal agencies to the law. Rather than furthering transparency, H.R. 4316 would needlessly drain limited agency resources — all in the name of building a misleading case against citizen enforcement of the ESA. Despite repeated declarations by Rep. Hastings (R-WA) and others that enforcement actions have somehow derailed the ESA, the Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has rejected such claims. Indeed, researchers recently concluded that citizen enforcement of the ESA has proven essential to the effective implementation of the Act. The House Natural Resources Committee's Republicans are already bombarding the Department of the Interior with document requests that have 'significantly impacted the Department's ability to accomplish its core mission for the American people.' H.R. 4316 would further squander agency resources and slow the ESA's implementation.

H.R. 4317 ('State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency Act') directs that all data submitted by a state, tribal, or county government be deemed the 'best scientific and commercial data available.' Thus H.R. 4317 directs federal wildlife agencies to utilize state, tribal, and county provided data even if such data is not developed by scientists or of very poor quality. The 'best scientific and commercial data available' already includes all state, tribal and county data, so long as it actually constitutes the best science available. H.R. 4317 also amends Section 6 of the ESA to direct federal wildlife agencies to provide all data used in listing decisions to states prior to making ESA listing decisions. This requirement is duplicative and unnecessary. Section 4 already requires the Secretaries of Interior and Commerce to give actual notice of any proposed listing determination to any affected state. Moreover, the federal wildlife agencies already work extensively with the states under Section 6 of the Act, which requires that the agencies 'cooperate to the maximum extent practicable with the States.' H.R. 4317 does nothing to improve the science used in ESA decisions. To the contrary, this bill would mandate the use of deficient and less sound scientific information.

H.R. 4318 ('Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act') seeks to dissuade citizens from enforcing the Endangered Species Act by restricting their ability to recover litigation costs when they prevail in court. Under H.R. 4318, a prevailing citizen's request for reimbursement under the Endangered Species Act would be subject to the restrictions of the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA). EAJA affords a vital means of court access for citizens from across the political spectrum. EAJA's fee cap, however, can make it difficult for citizens to retain counsel. The cap on fees included in EAJA often falls well below market rates for attorneys. Further, H.R. 4318 would deny federal courts their existing authority under the ESA to ensure that any award of costs in ESA litigation is both 'appropriate' and 'reasonable' (Section 11). H.R. 4318 unnecessarily disrupts this judicial oversight and discretion. In subjecting ESA cases to EAJA's below-market cap on reimbursement, H.R. 4318 would make it more difficult for citizens from across the political spectrum to obtain counsel and challenge illegal government actions.

Please protect the Endangered Species Act, our nation's safety net for imperiled species, by opposing all of these harmful bills H.R. 4315, H.R. 4316, H.R. 4317 and H.R. 4318.

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