ESA Revisions Return Law to Its Intended Purpose While Restoring Business Certainty
August 13, 2019 - The National Mining Association (NMA) has welcomed the revisions to the Endangered Species Act (ESA) set forth by the Fish and Wildlife Service and NOAA Fisheries.
“These revisions are a step in the right direction to restore the law to its intended purpose: advancing species recovery and ultimately removing species from threatened or endangered status, a goal that deserves undisputed support,” said Hal Quinn, NMA president and CEO. “Unfortunately, for too long, the statute has been misused for reasons that have little to do with any endangered species. They have been a tool to facilitate perpetual listings as the justification for unwarranted land grabs and excessive land-use restrictions.”
The impact of the revisions will be to more effectively allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to respond to past court rulings regarding the findings that federal agencies make with respect to listed species without unnecessarily restricting decision-making needed for projects to move forward. The changes will also restore the law’s original distinction between species that are threatened and those that are facing greater threats and are listed as endangered under the ESA. This important distinction will allow the Service to dedicate valuable resources to those species most in need while avoiding application of the most severe land use restrictions for species that fall below that threshold. Finally, the revised regulations will better reflect that language of the ESA by mirroring the standards for delisting to those necessary for listing, and by prioritizing the designation of occupied habitat that is critical to species recovery over unoccupied habitat with undemonstrated recovery benefits.
Several aspects of the previous regulations impacting the implementation of the ESA were either ambiguous or not consistent with the statute itself, while others directly frustrate the purpose and intent of the ESA — to effectively recover species. The end result was a lack of regulatory certainty that impeded business planning and increased the already burdensome permitting process and costs for industry, ultimately harming the competitiveness of the U.S. mining industry.
NMA members are committed to the conservation and recovery of threatened and endangered species and their habitats both during and after operations. In fact, NMA members have reclaimed millions of acres of land, much of which is restored to serve as prime species habitat.