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The following is from the NWRA Daily Report, May 30, 2003

Congressional Press Release:

Crapo agrees ESA is "broken"

Washington, DC - Idaho Senator Mike Crapo today cited a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service report concerning years of backlogged litigation under the critical habitat section of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as evidence Congress must step in with reform methods quickly.  Crapo, who chairs the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction over the ESA, agreed with statements by Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks, Craig Manson.  Manson said time and money are being lost under the practice of declaring critical habitat while trying to save threatened and endangered species.

Crapo, chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Water, said while he feels critical habitat designations are secondary to collaboration with landowners in saving species, he found merit in the report as a way to push for reform of the ESA.  "Last month at a subcommittee hearing I held on this issue, Fish and Wildlife officials discussed the need for ESA reform due to this very problem," Crapo said. "Congress is clearly failing its responsibility to conserve and recover listed species by not addressing the proper timing and management of critical habitat designation.

"Now, the Department says the critical habitat designation process is consuming two-thirds of the entire endangered species listing budget by dealing with court orders and settlement agreements requiring critical habitat designations for species already on the endangered list.  This leaves only a small percentage of that budget to address ongoing efforts toward species protection and recovery work.  Taxpayers should not tolerate it," Crapo added.

"Four years ago I introduced legislation that would have changed the timing of determining critical habitat to become part of species recovery planning. This would have provided much needed reforms at that time, and may have alleviated the current budget crisis.  Today, Congress needs to take the lead in reforming the ESA, and transform a system that, while well intentioned, is proving to be self-defeating in implementation.  A system where private property owners, conservation groups, and regulatory agencies can work together to accomplish the intention of the Endangered Species Act is what we ought to be after and I will continue to push for those reforms," said Crapo.

According to information released by the Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will exhaust the funds needed to meet its obligations to designate critical habitat under settlements and court orders for Fiscal Year 2003.  The administration has requested that funds be moved from other endangered species programs to cover the lack of funds.  Once an area has been designated a critical habitat, federal agencies are required to consult with the Fish and Wildlife service about the impact of activities they authorize, fund or execute on land with this designation. According to the Department of the Interior, this has little effect on an already endangered species because the requirement for consultation is already in place due to the endangered species designation for the affected plant or animal population.

 

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