This West Is OUR West

Comments on ESA Political Posturing

 

 

Comments on ESA Political Posturing – Aug. 2017

By Jim Beers

The following proposals in Congress to “fix” the ESA deserve exposure to sunlight and a few comments as to what they are up to beyond posturing for campaign photos: the answer being, not much.

1. •H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson), To direct the Secretary of the Interior to reissue final rules relating to listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming under the Endangered Species Act of 1973, and for other purposes. “Gray Wolf State Management Act of 2017

Numbers of gray wolves are exploding in most areas where they exist or have been introduced. This has had a severe impact on local livestock, as well as large grazing wildlife such as moose, elk, deer, etc. Ranchers and state wildlife managers have found themselves at odds with environmentalist wolf advocates who urge--and often go to court for--continued protections on what are thriving, and ecologically and economically significant predator populations. The hearing memo summarizes the issue this way:

Gray wolves were listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1974. Existing wolves present in the Western Great Lakes Region were protected, and the federal government introduced the species canis lupus irremotus to the West by removing wolves from Canada and releasing them in central Idaho and Yellowstone National Park in 1994 and 1995. States, local citizens, livestock groups, and sportsmen opposed the reintroduction effort. The reintroduced wolf population in the West recovered and expanded more quickly than anticipated. As a result, in September 2001, the states and tribes began working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formulate plans that would effectively transition management responsibility to the states upon delisting.

FWS deemed the Idaho and Montana wolf management plans adequate, but did not approve the Wyoming plan. Gray wolves were removed from the Endangered Species List on January 14, 2009. As part of their management plans, Idaho and Montana conducted tightly controlled wolf hunts beginning in the autumn of 2009. Sales of wolf hunt tags fund management activities, and hunts are conducted in a similar fashion to those of large ungulates and other wild animals under state management.

Litigious environmental groups challenged the FWS decision to delist the wolves in Idaho, Montana, and the Western Great Lakes, arguing that the rule had been politically motivated and did not comply with ESA. The U.S. District Court for the District of Montana held that the rule was a “political solution that does not comply with ESA” and that delisting of a species which was still endangered in a portion of its region (Wyoming) was not appropriate. The delisting of the wolves was halted in all states until the Wyoming plan was acceptable. See full hearing memo here.

 

Comments:

 

  • It says a great deal about the sad state of national wildlife affairs when, as a positive justification for more federal legislation, we accept as a positive accomplishment thriving, and ecologically and economically significant predator populations”.  Predators are like armies; they kill and disrupt things in accord with their controls. Do we really think “thriving” predator populations are good when they kill and wreak all manner of havoc when uncontrolled?  When, and if, we choose to maintain, introduce and protect large predators; it should be done primarily for the common good of society and not for the “ecology” which is a controversial judgment at best or to have them “thrive” with no qualifier that recognizes where they do not belong and densities and distributions to be tolerated in other areas with the consent of those communities forced to host them.

     

  • It is specious to say, reintroduced wolf population in the West recovered and expanded more quickly than anticipated”.  The politicians should tell the truth and drop “anticipated” to be replaced with “we were told”.  The very same bureaucrats that downplayed the potential of wolves with full protection and unlimited food sources (like your pet dog wolves are omnivorous) are the same bureaucracy you want to tweak and expect to get a different result when the past 3 decades reveal how they operate and the increasing havoc they are wreaking.

     

  • It is a scam of enormous proportions to write and speak that, working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to formulate plans that would effectively transition management responsibility to the states upon delistingis anything other than the federal government and the wolf NGO’s simply telling the states where and how many wolves they must maintain and then the state pays the bill and only uses federally approved methods based on counts (never accurate and always grist for lawsuits in the “right” court before the “right” judge) that will allow the bureaucrats and their “partners” to takeback “control” whenever politically possible.  This is one case where the piper doesn’t pay the bill: those told how and when to dance, pay the bill!  Ask yourself where does the money come from for lawsuits, counting, investigating, vehicles, fuel, salaries, retirement, insurance, clerks, biologists, wardens, contractors, compensation, “administration”, etc. for all this?  It diverts large portions of the License fees, Excise Taxes and other revenue from state functions for all to dance to a federal piper.  When they tell you that they sold a lot of wolf licenses, keep in mind that wolves are smart and quickly adapt.  Shooting, trapping and other “sporting” methods of take are quickly learned and after a year or two of only a few killed, the initial surge of “hunters” buying a wolf tag (that at best will never begin to cover the cost of “managing” these federally sanctified critters) for only a few wolves will wane and then the surge of happiness will turn into a hangover as everyone realizes that this may go on “forever” and everything else in the state responsibilities toolbox is going to suffer, and suffer bigtime.

     

    2. •H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olson), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require review of the economic cost of adding a species to the list of endangered species or threatened species, and for other purposes. “Listing Reform Act

    One of the starkest examples of devastating economic impact by an ESA listing is that of the spotted owl, which effectively decimated the timber industry of the American North Pacific. The Listing Reform Act is intended to prevent such sweeping economic destruction. It is summarized:

    H.R. 717, the “Listing Reform Act” would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to consider economic impacts in listing decisions for threatened species, and allow preclusion of the listing if the likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects would result from the listing, or from the resulting designation of critical habitat. See full hearing memo here.

     

    Comments:

     

  • I love the way these politicians can casually say, One of the starkest examples of devastating economic impact by an ESA listing is that of the spotted owl, which effectively decimated the timber industry of the American North Pacific” (the Aleutians are treeless could the staffer mean Northwest?) and then blithely go on talking about the law that caused that devastation to thousands of families and the economy, and expanded the bureaucracy power created by that law as if they were a Mayor explaining why revenue-generation-only speed traps are really good and a tweak or two here and there and everyone will benefit and be happy one day.  What about the pols that passed such a law that did this?  What about the increasingly corrupt bureaucrats that then perpetrated this atrocity with their “rules”, “regulations”, “policies” and collusion with radical groups for a myriad of hidden agendas – all under the color of a LAW every bit as bad as Prohibition?  Who has ever been held responsible for any of this?  Physician, heal thyself!

     

  • Are you kidding me?  “Consider economic impacts”?  These are the same federal bureaucracies that ignored wolves as vectors disease and infections; that denied any impacts on big game; that turned over federal livestock compensation for wolf predation to the Defenders of Wildlife; that lied about human dangers; that has minimized human attack reports; that stole millions from state Excise taxes to trap wolves in Canada after Congress had denied authorization and funding; that imported the wolves without required paperwork (something seriously punished on select civilians); that released the wolves into the Upper Rockies again without Congressional authorization; and that to this day works with radical environmental groups to further subdue and conquer rural America for their purposes.  None of these awful and illegal oppressions were ever punished. Indeed they (the bureaucrats) rewarded themselves greatly from government funding for their good job.  That said, who really believes that something as “airy-fairy” as “economic impacts” requires anything but lies?  There is no accountability for the aforementioned REAL egregious actions.  How would you ever hold anyone accountable for economic impacts that turned out to have missed XY&Z?  Beam me up Scotty!

 

  • 3. •H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to require making available to States affected by determinations that species are endangered species or threatened species all data that is the basis of such determinations, and for other purposes. “State, Tribal, and Local Species Transparency and Recovery Act

    Despite the provision within the ESA requiring the federal government to cooperate with states and tribes to the greatest extent possible, history has shown that this does not always happen, and states and localities are often left out of listings and related regulatory processes. The background of this issue is summarized this way:

    States have testified that the ESA as currently implemented, does not properly honor their ability to participate to the maximum extent practicable in federal ESA listing decisions. States also have stated that they are not made privy to factors utilized by the federal government in listing decisions that impact lands, communities, and species within their borders.

    States are the species managers prior to a listing decision by the federal government and will become the managers of the species after a delisting decision by the federal government. States possess extensive, on-the-ground experience and expertise in science-based wildlife management principles, generation of applicable data, and the application of public policy in managing wildlife as a public asset.

    In spite of the expertise and willingness of State, local, and tribal governments to participate in the ESA process, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are not required to disclose scientific information or the basis they used in making listing or critical habitat decisions to the states or to utilize scientific data generated by the states, even though states often have actual data that the federal agencies do not. See full hearing memo here.

     

    Comments:

     

  • All of this nonsense, Despite the provision within the ESA requiring the federal government to cooperate with states and tribes to the greatest extent possible, history has shown that this does not always happen, and states and localities are often left out of listings and related regulatory processes” and States have testified that the ESA as currently implemented, does not properly honor their ability to participate to the maximum extent practicable in federal ESA listing decisions. States also have stated that they are not made privy to factors utilized by the federal government in listing decisions that impact lands, communities, and species within their border” is merely rich irony.  These same politicians that pass and condone a law that gives a federal bureaucracy (USFWS) total authority over calling wolves whatever works for their hidden agendas and complete jurisdiction over Where and How Many will be placed and maintained and who (ranchers, hunters, dog owners, elderly, children, etc.) will have to put up with what Or Else; these same guys now whine that there is little “participation” and “cooperation” and “transparency” with States?  Am I mistaken, but hasn’t it been made crystal clear that they (USFWS) have been and will continue to be (as long as USFWS staff and managers sympathetic to radical i.e. anti-grazing/private property/animal ownership/hunting/trapping/animal control /animal management/logging/irrigation/dams/roads/gun, etc. agendas and organizations remain in place) in league with and colluding with organizations and agendas that are anathema to States Rights, and a Rural America composed of free men with families and rights?  Mouthing “cooperation” and “transparency” for someone to whom you have given absolute power is like Russia “welcoming” Poland into the USSR after WWII and then years later wondering why there hasn’t been any “cooperation” or “transparency”.

     

  • Ditto for, In spite of the expertise and willingness of State, local, and tribal governments to participate in the ESA process, the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce are not required to disclose scientific information or the basis they used in making listing or critical habitat decisions to the states or to utilize scientific data generated by the states, even though states often have actual data that the federal agencies do not.”  See previous comment.

     

     

    4. •H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to provide that nonnative species in the United States shall not be treated as endangered species or threatened species for purposes of that Act. “Saving America's Endangered Species Act” or “SAVES Act

    This bill offers protections to foreign species by easing and clarifying regulatory processes for captive breeding programs. Designed to support restoration programs for international species jeopardized by poaching, or other factors outside the purview of United States law, this bill would offer protections to endangered and threatened species without necessitating an ESA listing. The hearing memo summarizes the issue this way:

    The Endangered Species Act of 1973 includes protections for nonnative endangered species in an effort to encourage foreign nations to protect jeopardized species and their habitats abroad. Nonnative endangered species are regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) under the Endangered Species Act through the captive bred wildlife (CBW) program.

    Legal captive breeding of nonnative endangered species is a conservation measure that can create healthy populations of animals to augment recovery of wild populations, decrease illegal wildlife trafficking, and increase educational opportunities relating to the species. While no federal permit is required to own listed nonnative species, those wishing to sell or buy nonnative endangered species across state lines, including zoos and private breeders, must obtain a CBW permit from FWS.

    H.R. 2603 would effectively eliminate the duplicative requirement for CBW permits for nonnative endangered species in the United States and held in captivity. Ease of transfer across state lines would enhance conservation and welfare of the species by allowing owners, breeders, and conservators of the species to ensure robust, and genetically diverse populations continue to exist in the United States. See the full hearing memo here:

     

    Comment:

     

  • While it is admirable and surprising to see a proposed ESA Amendment to, effectively eliminate the duplicative requirement for CBW permits for nonnative endangered species in the United States and held in captivity. Ease of transfer across state lines would enhance conservation and welfare of the species”; some would say it is a symbolic token adjustment to the federal authority to totally regulate American Exotic Animal Owners.  Zoos and Aquariums would especially benefit from this, and the fact that the former Director of USFWS, who went out the door when President Trump came into office and is now the Executive Director or some such official with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums is an example of the close relationship between lobby groups and USFWS top bureaucrats.  The federal oversight interference with and disruption of Privately-owned Exotic wildlife that is a foreign ESA Listed Species lies not so much with the transfers across state lines but with the totality of the management of privately owned herds that need routine culling and the federal interference with hunts, selling meat or hides or mounts to 1.) Keep herd sizes compatible with available forage, 2.) Contribute to local economies and 3.) Provide owners with the wherewithal to maintain the species.  The standards and treatment of zoos and aquariums are too often but a pale shadow of the treatment by bureaucrats of what private Listed Exotic Animal Owners endure.  It is worth noting that this is a proposal of a Texas Congressman and Texas had more such Exotic Wildlife and Exotic Wildlife Owners than any other State the last time I looked.

     

     

    5. •H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga), To amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 to conform citizen suits under that Act with other existing law, and for other purposes. “Endangered Species Litigation Reasonableness Act.

    Environmentalist groups, some with radical agendas, have taken advantage of the Equal Access to Justice Act to sue the federal government for 'failing' to properly protect species listed under the ESA. In so doing, the American taxpayer has paid out billions of dollars in huge settlements, which more often than not are used by such special interests to hire staff and bring on more lawyers to expand efforts to sue involved federal agencies. Known as 'Sue & Settle,' this long-standing practice has not just enriched radical special interests with public monies, but has given environmentalists an edge in using the ESA to halt economic activities, such as ranching, mining, logging, fishing, etc. This is made possible in large part due to the fact that there is no cap on what special interest groups which win settlements can claim for attorney's costs. The issue is summarized this way.

    Special interest attorneys representing environmental groups argue that their expertise is “specialized” to justify substantial, uncapped fees. Some special interest attorneys have collected fees as high as $750 taxpayer dollars per hour. According to records from the Department of Justice, at least two such attorneys have garnered more than $2 million in attorneys’ fees by filing ESA suits.

    The taxpayer-funded Judgment Fund serves as the source for ESA-related attorneys’ fees payments. H.R. 3131 would require ESA litigants to abide by the same rules as others bringing suit against the federal government, requiring plaintiffs to prevail in order to collect attorneys’ fees, as well as impose the $125 fee cap set by EAJA. Capable environmental attorneys are no longer rare or specialized to the point where uncapped attorneys’ fees are justified. While this legislation does not restrict aggrieved parties’ ability to seek redress in court, it removes an incentive for litigious plaintiffs to request large fee awards and safeguards taxpayer dollars against abusive litigation tactics.

     

    I leave this one to the lawyers in the crowd.  Such legislation, written by lawyers, proposed by lawyers, lobbied for by lawyers and described by lawyers are truthfully above my pay grade.  This complexity and long-standing possession of this arena of governance is one of the big reasons no one stands up to things anymore since we are all such purposely – uneducated ignoramuses about these matters.  I suppose this is why Will Rogers once observed that, “The minute you read something you can’t understand, you can almost be sure it was drawn up by a lawyer.”

    Jim Beers

    4 August 2017

     

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    Jim Beers is a retired US Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Biologist, Special Agent, Refuge Manager, Wetlands Biologist, and Congressional Fellow. He was stationed in North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York City, and Washington DC.  He also served as a US Navy Line Officer in the western Pacific and on Adak, Alaska in the Aleutian Islands.  He has worked for the Utah Fish & Game, Minneapolis Police Department, and as a Security Supervisor in Washington, DC.  He testified three times before Congress; twice regarding the theft by the US Fish & Wildlife Service of $45 to 60 Million from State fish and wildlife funds and once in opposition to expanding Federal Invasive Species authority.  He resides in Eagan, Minnesota with his wife of many decades.

    Jim Beers is available to speak or for consulting.

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