The Endangered Species Act, having turned 40 last year, now needs a facelift, according to some House Republicans. To them this means more transparency, and a bill was passed last week to require government agencies to make public the data that’s used to determine a species’ eligibility for protection.
The House of Representatives voted 233 to 190 to require the federal government to make public the information and data that is used to determine a species’ eligibility for protection under the act, which was created back in 1973 “to preserve, protect, and recover species,” the House of Represent.
H.R. 4315, the Endangered Species Transparency and Reasonableness Act, which passed the House on July 29, “would make a number of commonsense improvements and updates to ESA by specifically addressing species recovery and increased transparency by the federal government,” the bill’s sponsors said in a media release.
“There is no question that the United States has made significant improvements and advancements in biology and technology since ESA was last renewed more than 25 years ago, but unfortunately our current system does not take advantage of any of that,” said Congressman Don Young (R-Alaska), who helped push it through, in a statement. “At the core of ESA are a number of good intentions; however, it currently lacks the 21st-century innovation needed to update and improve the law for both species conservation and the American people.”
The bill would require federal agencies to post online the data that is feeding into the decision to designate a species as eligible. The federal must also notify states that will be affected by a decision to list a species as endangered under the act, including “data provided by states, tribes, and local county governments,” the legislation states. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service would also have to disclose how many tax dollars it is spending on response to ESA lawsuits; how many people are employed to deal with ESA litigation, and how much is spent in attorney’s fees during a litigation and settlement process, the statement said.
The chances of the bill passing the Senate are slim, the Los Angeles Times reported, and President Barack Obama has said he will veto it if it gets to his desk.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 4315, which is a bill that would rigidly constrain science, public input, and data in making Endangered Species Act (ESA) determinations,” the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a policy statement on July 29.
The online reporting requirement would dampen information sharing and thus subvert or compromise the process, the White House said.
“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,” the Office of Management and Budget said. “This provision could also expose vulnerable wildlife and rare plants to increased poaching or vandalism.”
Further, the move would bog any determinations down in red tape and be costly to implement, an environmental attorney told the Los Angeles Times.
“All it’s going to do is create more red tape and create a whole new set of hurdles for species recovery,” Ya-Wei "Jake" Li, a lawyer with the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, told the Los Angeles Times. “It’s not to reform the Endangered Species Act. It’s to drastically weaken it.”