Guest Column: The Endangered Species Act Is Flawed, There Is Now A Road Map To Fix It

Sens. Cynthia Lummis and Shelley Moore Capito write, "With a less than 5% success rate, it is abundantly clear that the Endangered Species Act is woefully inept at recovering dwindling species populations on the verge of extinction and is in serious need of immediate reform."

CS
CSD Staff

January 13, 20243 min read

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Fifty years ago, the Endangered Species Act was signed into law by President Richard Nixon with the intention of establishing a clear process for recovering species on the verge of extinction.

In the years that have passed since its enactment, this well-intended law has taken on a life of its own and has dramatically shifted from its original purpose to the point where it does far more harm than good. 

Since its passage, the ESA has become a weapon wielded by the Left to appease environmental activists that has punished landowners and once-thriving communities with virtually no improvement to the species it aims to recover.

Today, there are roughly 1,667 threatened or endangered species protected under the ESA. Of those 1,667 species, only 62 are “recovered” species.

To add insult to injury, the ESA’s poor recovery rates are compounded by the fact that for the majority of recovered species, roughly 60% of downlisted species appear to owe their improvement to data error, not the protections afforded to them by the ESA. 

In 2019, the Trump administration offered meaningful reforms regarding the delisting of species and designation of critical habitats that struck a balance of protecting endangered species without hogtying landowners.

This welcomed change in policy eliminated constraints that previously prevented agencies from researching and sharing the economic impacts of listing determinations under the ESA.

Unfortunately, the Biden administration’s rigid take on the ESA removed Trump-era clarity by inflating unelected Washington bureaucrats’ power and strangling landowners and communities across the country with onerous red tape. 

In order to fix this broken law, we must have a clear understanding of its failures, which is why the bipartisan, bicameral Western Caucus Foundation marked the ESA’s 50th anniversary by compiling a comprehensive report that details its problems and failures with hopes of creating a road map for commonsense reforms.

For far too long, this administration has allowed the ESA to be the death knell of local communities bound by its outdated policies.

Now more than ever, we have a responsibility to modernize the ESA so it not only better fits its intended purpose but empowers our landowners and businesses to be partners in preserving our iconic species and landscapes.

With a less than 5% success rate, it is abundantly clear that the ESA is woefully inept at recovering dwindling species populations on the verge of extinction and is in serious need of immediate reform. 

We value the good intentions of this legislation to preserve America’s iconic species and landscapes and hope we can be partners in modernizing this antiquated policy in a way that actually recovers endangered species without destroying the communities around them.

Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) is the junior senator from Wyoming and the chairwoman of the Senate Western Caucus. She serves on the Environment and Public Works, Banking, and Commerce committees. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) is the ranking member of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and also serves on the Appropriations, Commerce, and Rules committees. She is the first female senator from West Virginia.

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