February 16, 2017 — A Senate hearing to “modernize the Endangered Species Act” unfolded Wednesday just as supporters of the law had feared, with round after round of criticism from Republican lawmakers who said the federal effort to keep species from going extinct encroaches on states’ rights, is unfair to landowners and stymies efforts by mining companies to extract resources and create jobs.
The two-hour meeting of the Environment and Public Works Committee was led by Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.), who said last month that his focus in a bid to change the act would be “eliminating a lot of the red tape and the bureaucratic burdens that have been impacting our ability to create jobs,” according to a report in Energy and Environment News.
In his opening remarks, Barrasso declared that the act “is not working today,” adding that “states, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders” have made that clear in complaints about how it impedes land management plans, housing development and cattle grazing, particularly in western states, such as Wyoming.
At least one Republican has vowed to wage an effort to repeal the Endangered Species Act. “It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species,” House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) said, according to an Associated Press report. “It’s been used to control the land. We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”
But members of the hearing said its regulations prevented people from doing business and making a living. In a comment to a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service director who testified at the hearing, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), repeated a point made by Barrasso that of more than 1,600 species listed as threatened or endangered since the act’s inception, fewer than 50 have been removed.