The recent American energy boom in shale oil and gas could be hindered or halted by federal enforcement of the Endangered Species Act. The Feds propose to add more than 700 new species for protection under ESA between now and 2018. Among those are the Sage Grouse and Prairie Chicken, both found in western states.
Putting those birds on the endangered species list will allow federal bureaucrats to limit use of private and state land that have, so far, provided most of the new oil and gas discoveries and production.
According to the Washington Examiner, a principal problem with ESA enforcement is that “Many [federal] reports and studies used to justify ESA decisions have been found to have mathematical errors, missing data, errors of omission, biased sampling, undocumented methods, simulated data in place of more accurate empirical data, discrepancies between reported results and data, inaccurate mapping, selective use of data, subjective interpretation of results, fabricated data substituted for missing data, and even no data at all.”
Furthermore, according to a Congressional Working Group report on the Endangered Species Act, most of the federal agencies that administer ESA are unable to make basic and legitimate data underlying their policies and procedures available to the public, as required by law.
The Congressional Working Group also “found that the ESA, while well-intentioned from the
beginning, must be updated and modernized to ensure its success where it matters most: outside of the courtroom and on-the-ground. A two percent recovery rate of endangered species is simply not acceptable.”
The working group adds, “Americans who live near, work on and enjoy our lands, waters and wildlife show a tremendous commitment to conservation that is too often undermined and forgotten by the ESA’s litigation-driven model. Species and people should have the right to live and prosper within a 21st century model that recognizes the values of the American people and
fosters, not prohibits, a boots on-the-ground conservation philosophy that is working at many state and local levels. The ESA can be modernized to more successfully assist species that are truly in danger. It can be updated so species conservation does not create conflicts with people. All the while, the ESA should promote greater transparency in the way our federal government does business.”
Among the Congressional Working Group conclusions are:
“With less than 2% of species removed from the ESA list in 40 years, the ESA’s primary goal to recover and protect species has been unsuccessful. Progress needs to be measured not by the number of species listed, especially as a result of litigation, but by recovering and de-listing those that are currently listed and working cooperatively on-the-ground to prevent new ones from being listed.”
“Current implementation of ESA is focused too much on responding to listing petitions and unattainable statutory deadlines, litigation threats and ESA regulatory mandates, rather than on defensible policies, science or data to recover and de-list species. This slows or halts a multitude of public and private activities, even those that would protect species.”
“Current implementation of ESA does not clearly identify what is needed to recover and delist species, resulting in a lack of incentives, for state and private conservation, costly mandates,
and wasted resources even in light of increased federal funding.”
“The ESA punishes private property owners and water rights holders and fails to properly account for huge economic and regulatory burdens that also hinder species conservation. The ESA also advances the agendas of groups seeking land and water acquisition and control.”
“The ESA promotes a lack of data transparency and science guiding ESA-related decisions, and there are conflicts of interest and bias in ‘peer review’ of federal ESA decisions.”
“ESA is increasingly becoming a tool for litigation and taxpayer-funded attorneys’ fees. The Obama Administration’s use of closed-door settlements undermines transparency and involvement of affected stakeholders and drives arbitrary mandates and deadlines that do little to recover species.”
“ESA shuts out states, tribes, local governments, and private landowners not only in key ESA decisions but in actual conservation activities to preserve and recover species.”
For more on this issue see two Washington Examiner articles by Mark Tapscott:
The Congressional Working Group report (64 pages) is available here.