Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Endangered Species Service? Obama Administration Deal Forces Questionable ESA Listings

An important message from U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance, Friday, July 22, 2011 3:44:00 PM

By Bill Horn, Director of Federal Affairs
While debt ceiling talks and the stalled economy dominant Washington, D.C., the pot continues to boil regarding hunting and fishing issues. The Obama Administration just cut a deal with the anti-hunting activists at the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) on accelerated Endangered Species Act (ESA) listings. Per the legal agreement, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) is required to consider adding 757 species, subspecies, or distinct population segments to the list of endangered or threatened species. Decisions on all 757 must be rendered by October, 2016. The list includes species that are presently fished, hunted or trapped, including golden trout, cottontail rabbits, sage grouse, fisher, and wolverine.

Obligating FWS to engage in an unprecedented level of ESA listings will require millions of dollars and eat up untold hours of agency personnel time. Other key agency programs will suffer, including operation of the National Wildlife Refuge System (and hunting, fishing, and trapping which occurs on the majority of the 553 Refuge units), migratory bird management, and fisheries restoration. USSA has always been a strong supporter of FWS and these vital conservation programs. As a former Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks (overseeing FWS), I am deeply worried that the Obama-CBD deal converts FWS into the “Endangered Species Service.”

The timing on this deal looks like an effort to thwart Congressional efforts to rein in the ESA program. The House of Representatives is about to pass the Interior Department funding bill (including FWS) which severely restricts new ESA listings. The House wants the Service to use its finite money and personnel resources to focus on recovering already listed species rather than listing 757 more species (many of which are “endangered” only in the minds of anti-hunting activists). What CBD, and its Administration pals, cannot get via Congress, they want to get via this court settlement.

Interior, and FWS, are also about to get a new Assistant Secretary for Fish, Wildlife and Parks. President Obama recently nominated Rebecca Wodder to the post. She had her first (of two) Senate confirmation hearings this week. Wodder is a long time D.C. environmental activist who began her career in the late 1970’s as a staffer for Sen. Gaylord Nelson (D-WI) often considered the “father” of Earth Day. She later spent 15 years with The Wilderness Society (with whom USSA has long been fighting over wildlife management and hunting access issues) before becoming Executive Director of American Rivers in 1995. Wodder has not taken anti-hunting positions but has also not been a vocal supporter of the hunting community. We expect her to take office in September.

Stay tuned and be prepared for what will no doubt be a large and contentious issue facing all sportsmen, sportswomen, and other conservationists.

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