SALT LAKE CITY — Members of the Congressional Western Caucus on Thursday said the decades-old Endangered Species Act needs to go under the knife with reforms that will produce more appealing results for states, landowners and the plants and animals themselves.
Critics of the series of nine bills, however, say the overhaul will dismember a law designed to protect threatened and imperiled species.
Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, and chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, said if the law was a major league baseball player, its batting average would be .100, or even less.
"The Endangered Species Act is the most inept program we have in federal government," Bishop said.
Bishop joined the caucus outside the U.S. Capitol in a press conference that was also livestreamed.
The nine bills would institute a signficant overhaul that includes requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to make available all data it uses to come to a determination of a listing. That data would be available online, supporters said.
"These are not radical ideas but (they) work on improving the Endangered Species Act," said Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash.
Rep. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said less than 2 percent of species protected under the act have recovered, while individual public and private partnerships are producing better results.
In his state, the conservation of the lesser prairie chicken fueled a population boost of 70 percent since the drought of 2013, he said.
But wildlife advocates say the bills are an unwarranted assault on the Endangered Species Act.
“Same song, different tune. House Republicans, including Rep. Rob Bishop, have had their sights set on killing the Endangered Species Act from day one of this Congress," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of the Defenders of Wildlife.
"Today’s extinction package of anti-wildlife legislation just shows how out of touch these politicians are with an overwhelming majority of Americans who want to save grizzly bears, manatees, wolves and other endangered wildlife."2 comments on this story
Rep. Bruce Westerman, R-Ark., countered that the Endangered Species Act's provisions have grown weary and ineffective.
"The Endangered Species Protection Act was passed the year before I was born, which allowed the first listing of a species when I was child in elementary school walking around in bell bottoms. Little to nothing has been done to change that act since it was passed," he said, adding:
"Ladies and gentleman we have an eight-track law in a Spotify world. It is time we get this ESA up to speed and have it accomplish the purposes it was intended for."