On July 19, 2017, the House Committee on Natural Resources held a full committee legislative hearing on five bills that would amend portions of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
- H.R. 424 (Rep. Collin Peterson; D-MN) – This bill would require the Department of Interior to reissue the final rules relating to the listing of the gray wolf in the Western Great Lakes and Wyoming.
- H.R. 717 (Rep. Pete Olsen; R-TX) – This bill would remove the 90-day and 12-month deadlines for making listing determinations and allow the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) and National Marine Fisheries Service to consider the economic effects that may occur as a result of a listing or designation of critical habitat.
- H.R. 1274 (Rep. Dan Newhouse; R-WA) – This bill would require USFWS to more heavily coordinate with states impacted by a listing decision. It would also require USFWS to include all data submitted by state, local and tribal governments when reviewing species status and to automatically consider such information as the “best available scientific and commercial data.”
- H.R. 2603 (Rep. Louie Gohmert; R-TX) – This bill would remove listings of non-native species.
- H.R. 3131 (Rep. Bill Huizenga; R-MI) – This bill would amend the ESA’s attorney’s fees provision to require a party to prevail in order to recover fees and place a cap on those fees.
During the hearing, Greg Sheehan, USFWS acting Director, announced the administration’s support of ESA reform and a commitment to working more closely with the states. Sheehan spoke in favor of various portions of the bills but was careful to state that technical modifications to the bills would still be needed. For example, Sheehan criticized the language in H.R. 1274 that would automatically characterize state, local, and tribal information as “the best scientific and commercial data available” as a significant departure from scientific integrity standards. While these bills have a higher likelihood to advance, and possibly be passed, given the support of the acting USFWS Director, in the 115th Congress there have been a total of 34 ESA-related bills introduced and to date the Democrats have been successful in blocking all of those from advancing, calling into question whether or not these bills will suffer the same fate.