Ensure that the listing of endangered species and the designation of critical habitats are based upon sound science and balance the protection of endangered species with the costs of compliance and the rights of property owners.
Summary of the Issue
Three decades after implementation, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has failed to achieve its purpose while simultaneously stifling economic development and burdening landowners. Its legacy has been to foster tremendous conflict with landowners and local communities that result, in many instances, with threatened species being subjected to more harm than help.
The ESA, which is jointly enforced by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), makes it illegal to "take" any threatened or endangered species without a permit. The FWS and NMFS use a broad definition of "take" to prohibit direct harm to any listed species and to prohibit the degradation of a species' significant habitat. This definition has enabled large areas of land and water to be designated as critical habitat for listed species and has resulted in significant disruption to commercial and agricultural development. In addition, private property owners who seek to comply with ESA regulations have difficulty because FWS regulations do not include adequate scientific criteria to determine whether a species is truly endangered. Furthermore, despite a requirement by the ESA, the FWS has not developed reasonable habitat conservation and recovery plans to revive threatened species.
As a result, the ESA has been a failure at protecting species. Of the 1,274 species that have been listed, only 40 have been removed from the list. 21 were deemed to have been erroneously listed, 9 are extinct, and only 10 have recovered, though the recovery of at least 8 of these species was due to factors other than the ESA.
U.S. Chamber Strategy
- Seek the adoption of clear and objective standards for evaluating species listings and critical habitat designations under the ESA, including clear standards for using sound science, best available peer reviewed studies, and detailed cost-benefit considerations for the affected community.
- Seek legislation to protect the rights of property owners impacted by ESA listings and critical habitat designations.
- Advocate for legislation and regulations to require that economic analyses are completed before a species is listed as threatened or endangered, as required by the ESA.
Staff Contact Information
Environment, Technology & Regulatory Affairs Division