21st Century Endangered Species Transparency Act (H.R. 4315)
Status: Passed the House on July 29, 2014 with a bipartisan vote of 233-190. Awaits consideration by the Senate.
This legislation is a common-sense bill that focuses on sensible and specific updates to the Endangered Species Act in the areas of transparency and species recovery.
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was created four decades ago in 1973 to preserve, protect, and recover key domestic species. Since that time, over 1,500 U.S. domestic species and sub-species have been listed. However, today the law is failing to achieve its primary purpose of species recovery and has only a 2 percent recovery rate.
Congress last renewed the ESA in 1988 long before iPhones, iPads, and the World Wide Web. This means it has been 26 years since any improvements have been made.
This legislation helps update the ESA to the 21st Century by making the law more effective for both species and people. Even the Obama Administration’s Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said that there could be “opportunities to make incremental improvements” to the ESA.
Specifically this legislation would:
Require data used by federal agencies for ESA listing decisions to be made publicly available and accessible through the Internet, while respecting state data privacy laws and private property. (Sec. 2 reflects the text of H.R. 4315 as reported)
Require the federal government to disclose to affected states data used prior to an ESA listing decision and it would require the “best available scientific and commercial data” used by the federal government to incorporate data provided by states, tribes, and local county governments. (Sec. 3 reflects the text of H.R. 4317)
Require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to track, report to Congress, and make available online the federal taxpayer funds used to respond to ESA lawsuits, the number of employees dedicated to ESA litigation, and attorneys’ fees awarded in the course of ESA litigation and settlement agreements. (Sec. 4 reflects the text of H.R. 4316)
Prioritize species protection and protect taxpayer dollars by placing reasonable caps on attorneys’ fees to make the ESA consistent with existing federal law. For example, the federal government limits the prevailing attorneys’ fees to $125 per hour in most circumstances, including federal suits involving veterans, Social Security, and disability. But under the ESA, attorneys are being awarded huge sums, in many cases, at a rate much as $600 per hour. (Sec. 5 reflects the text of H.R. 4318)
Chairman Hastings Floor Statement on Legislation to Improve & Update the Endangered Species Act (7/29/2014)
Organizations in Support:
This bill to improve and update the Endangered Species Act has been endorsed by over 25 organizations including: