The Official Online Weekly Newspaper of NAHB
The review of more than 250 plant and animal species that as of Nov. 10 were candidates for protection under the Endangered Species Act will be fast-tracked over the next six years under a plan announced on May 10 by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), part of the Department of the Interior.
The work plan is part of a proposed agreement with WildEarth Guardians, an environmental advocacy group that has filed a series of lawsuits against the federal government in an attempt to hasten the “listing” process for threatened animals and plants.
But the agreement stops short of preventing additional lawsuits from other environmental groups, which casts doubt on the ability of the government to speed up the process, noted NAHB analysts.
The settlement will require the Service to make initial petition findings for more than 600 species. It will also have to issue proposed listing rules or find that a listing is unwarranted for at least 251 species on the ESA's Candidate Species List,
Gary Frazer, Fish and Wildlife’s assistant director for endangered species, said it is likely that a majority of the 251 plants and animals will be proposed for listing, an action that would follow rulemaking procedures, including an opportunity for public comment.
“In the more than 35 years since its passage, the Endangered Species Act has proved to be a critical safety net for America’s imperiled fish, wildlife and plants,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior David J. Hayes in announcing the proposal.
“For the first time in years, this work plan will give the wildlife professionals of the Fish and Wildlife Service the opportunity to put the needs of species first and extend that safety net to those truly in need of protection, rather than having our workload driven by the courts. It will also give states, stakeholders and the public much-needed certainty,” he said.
The agency also wants to make implementation of the ESA “less complex, less contentious and more effective,” and to “improve the clarity and consistency of regulations,” points that NAHB has advocated for years.
“NAHB is looking for clarity,” said Larissa Mark, an environmental policy analyst for the association.
“The ESA has been in need of revision for decades. The review and listing process is flawed and has failed not only the species, but the communities within which those species coexist,” Mark said.
“We have been seeking clarifications of definitions and procedures for years, something that our members continue to struggle with every time they put together a development plan in an area where endangered species may be present,” she said.
The FWS announcement does not address these issues, she noted.
“This settlement will not only fail to protect the species, it will further adversely impact surrounding communities. As the listing process proceeds, we hope all the factors are taken into account and existing plans, where applicable, are adhered to,” she said.
Even under the fast-track proposal announced by the agency, NAHB said, there should be sound science justifying each proposal to list a plant or animal as endangered or threatened and the public should have adequate time to comment on the effects of each listing.
In addition, any decisions made regarding a listing must include the economic impact of that decision.
For more information, email Larissa Mark, or call her at 800 368-5242 x8157.