Senators fight Biden administration’s expanded use of Endangered Species Act

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Oklahoma U.S. Sen. James Lankford and Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) have launched an effort to redefine the choice of wording in the Endangered Species Act as they try to combat what they contend are irrational efforts of the Biden administration.

The two Senators led 17 others in introduction of a Congressional Review Act resolution of disapproval to retain the regulatory definition of habitat within the Act.

“Oklahomans are more than willing to do their part to protect species on the endangered species list, but more and more often the rules and regulations for the Endangered Species Act are not rational,” said Lankford.

He complained that under the Critical Habitat rule, the Biden administration has free reign to interpret any geographic area across the U.S. as a ‘critical habitat’ in need of federal protection under the Endangered Species Act.

“This radical environmentalist proposal potentially impacts landowners, a variety of industries crucial to Oklahoma, jobs, and existing wildlife recovery efforts nationwide. Oklahomans are tired of the federal government picking animals and plants over people, especially when the ESA only has about a two percent success rate of species recovery since the 1970s,” stated the Republican Senator who added he stands firmly against the rule.

Senators John Barrasso (R-WY), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Pete Ricketts (R-NE), Katie Britt (R-AL), Ted Budd (R-NC), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Jim Risch (R-ID), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), John Boozman (R-AR), John Hoeven (R-ND), Steve Daines (R-MT), Joni Ernst (R-IA), Mike Crapo (R-ID) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) cosponsored the resolution of disapproval.

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“There is an important distinction between ‘habitat’ and ‘critical habitat’ for an endangered species,” said Lummis. “By scrapping the definition of habitat within the ESA, the Biden administration is causing chaos and confusion among private property owners throughout Wyoming and the west.”

“The Biden administration is once again burdening Wyoming farmers, ranchers and landowners with regulations that hurt our agriculture producers and reduce land value,” said Barrasso. 

Rep. Cliff Bentz (R-OR) introduced a companion CRA resolution in the US House of Representatives alongside Reps. Rob Wittman (R-VA), Matt Rosendale (R-MT), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Tom Tiffany (R-WI), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), David Valadao (R-CA), and Ryan Zinke (R-MT).

In December 2020, citing Weyerhaeuser Co. v. U.S. FWS, the Trump administration finalized a rule that defined the term “habitat” as “the abiotic and biotic setting that currently or periodically contains the resources and conditions necessary to support one or more life processes of a species.”

On June 24, 2022, the Biden Administration finalized a rule that rescinded the 2020 rule, eliminating the habitat distinction, leaving regulated parties in the dark and undermining the ESA’s purpose of protecting endangered or threatened species.

The ESA directs the Secretary of Interior through the US Fish and Wildlife Service and/or the Secretary of Commerce through the National Marine Fisheries Services to designate critical habitat for listed species.

Source: press release