Sen. Steve Daines (R-Mont.) today introduced legislation that would require federal agencies to ignore Endangered Species Act (ESA) requirements for land management plans when new species or habitat are protected.
Daines’s legislation would permit Trump administration officials in the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to ignore their responsibilities to evaluate the effects of land management plans on newly listed endangered species or newly designated critical habitat. His bill would contravene a federal court ruling that affirmed the need for the agencies to review new information about endangered species and habitat when managing our public lands.
The following is a statement from Blaine Miller-McFeeley, senior legislative representative handling forestry policy for Earthjustice:
“Some Senators want to prevent the Forest Service and BLM from doing their job to protect imperiled species and our forests. Congress should respect the science on land management; no lawmaker seriously concerned with the biodiversity crisis on this planet, or the rule of law, should embrace this proposal.”
The Endangered Species Act requires that all federal agencies, including the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, engage in a robust review with the federal expert fish and wildlife agencies of all their actions. This process of ESA consultation ensures the input and analysis of expert fish and wildlife agencies before potentially harmful activities go forward.
Consultation is a classic “look before you leap” tool that has been part of the ESA for over 40 years.
Forest plans provide the framework for forest management. Forest plans determine where, when, and how certain projects can take place — big picture decisions that are not revisited at the site-specific level. It is simply wrong to say that reinitiating consultation at the programmatic level is “unnecessary and redundant.”
Engaging in ESA consultation at the programmatic level is more efficient and cost-effective than starting consultation for the first time when individual actions are planned. Rather than reinventing the wheel with each new project, programmatic consultation allows agencies to establish a baseline for species protection that can be applied, with necessary modification, to site-specific projects.