NAHB Asks for Improvements to Endangered Species Rules
NAHB has asked federal administration officials for new regulations that would clarify the responsibilities of both land owners and regulators under the Endangered Species Act’s Section 7 consultation process.
In an Aug. 3 letter to the Division of Policy and Directives Management of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, NAHB recommended a number of changes to the consultation process, which is difficult to implement.
The letter follows a memorandum by President Obama earlier this year asking federal regulators to essentially ignore rulemaking signed in December that was intended to streamline the consultation rules and not require them for more routine permits.
“The 1986 Section 7 consultation rule has been the focus of several analytical reports whose conclusions have held a consistent theme of the need for streamlining, applicant involvement, reduced consultation delays, specific timelines and most importantly, cooperative interagency management with definitive roles and responsibilities for federal agency and Service staff,” the NAHB letter said.
“The continued absence of these improvements will result in exorbitant delays and difficulty for those seeking permit approvals,” the letter said. “Equally important, the failure to reform the ESA consultation program will continue to harm the species and the habitat upon which they depend.”
In preparation for the December 2008 rulemaking, the Bush Administration held more than 30 public hearings around the country to gather suggestions on how to improve the consultation process, and the NAHB membership was represented at each of them.
“We embrace species conservation, but we need to protect the species that are truly endangered,” Sandy Dunn, immediate past chairman of NAHB, said when last year’s rulemaking was announced. “Environmental groups, business groups — all of us agree that the act needs to be streamlined to do its job.”
Dunn also voiced concern over using the Endangered Species Act to protect species from the results of construction or development outside their habitat related to climate change.
“If we need to protect polar bears in their native habitat, we should use the regulations contained in the Endangered Species Act,” she said. “They aren’t endangered in Southern California, so there’s no way to use those regulations there without stretching the act way out of proportion.”
In order to improve regulation under the Endangered Species Act, the NAHB letter recommended that the Fish and Wildlife Service:
- Take timely steps to simplify the Section 7 consultation process by improving its coordination among federal agencies
- Adopt clear and consistent guidelines for determining critical habitat
- Define the ‘adverse modification’ standard for determining when impacts to species habitat occur
- Take all reasonable steps to ensure that the law is not used inappropriately as a vehicle to regulate greenhouse gas emissions
For more information, e-mail Calli Schmidt at NAHB, or call her at 800-368-5242 x8132.