ESA in need of overhaul
December 7, 2012
By Congressman Raul Labrador
Last week the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
announced the final critical habitat designation
for woodland caribou. Under this designation,
30,010 acres in Idaho’s Boundary County and
Washington’s Pend Oreille County will be
designated critical habitat for woodland
caribou, which have been listed as an endangered
species since 1984.
This final designation modifies a proposal that
the Fish and Wildlife Service released in 2011,
originally selecting 375,552 acres in Idaho’s
Bonner and Boundary Counties and Washington’s
Pend Oreille County as critical habitat.
The Endangered Species Act gives the Fish and
Wildlife Service authority to designate critical
habitat, which puts restrictions on the use of
both private and public land in order to protect
and improve wildlife.
But there is little evidence proving that
critical habitat protections do anything to
increase a species population.
As the rural economies in Idaho depend on access
to public lands, additional limitations on land
use negatively impact recreation, timber,
mining, grazing, and each of our multiple uses.
The Fish and Wildlife Service determined that
designating critical habitat for the woodland
caribou was not prudent when the animals were
added to the endangered list in 1984. After a
recent lawsuit, the Fish and Wildlife Service
determined in 2011 that now is an appropriate
time to make the designation.
Following the release of the initial acreage
proposal, there were serious concerns from many
residents whose livelihoods and recreational
opportunities would be impacted by the
In order to address these concerns the
delegation wrote letters to the Secretary of the
Interior and the Director of the Fish and
Wildlife Service. My staff attended the public
meetings on my behalf, to express concern with
this proposed rule and to listen to the issues
raised by my constituents.
While I am pleased that the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service listened to the public outcry
regarding the impact this expansive critical
habitat designation would have on Idahoans’
livelihoods, Congress needs to have a broader
discussion about improving the Environmental
We need to preserve species for future
generations but in a way that is consistent with
The intent of the Endangered Species Act, to
preserve and protect dwindling animal
populations, has failed. Only two to three
percent of protected species have actually been
recovered, while the costs to our economy are
The Act needs to be updated and modernized in
order to ensure adequate recovery of species.
Land managers expend time and taxpayer dollars
studying whether a species should be listed
instead of actually establishing a plan for
This legislation originally passed 24 years ago
in the House of Representatives, approved by
voice vote. While this statute is
well-intentioned, the long term implications
have been detrimental to the West.
The issue is not limited to woodland caribou, as
we have also seen from the ESA related actions
surrounding sage grouse, slickspot peppergrass,
grizzly bear, bull trout, salmon, and wolves.
Preserving each species creates unique
challenges that ultimately affect our economy in
Idaho, but I believe we can find a balance
between growing our economy and managing our
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