WASHINGTON, D.C.— Friday, Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah) introduced the Endangered Species Improvement Act of 2014. This bill would amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973, to require that the federal government count all species dwelling on both public and private lands, in determining species recovery.
“The intent of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species from extinction—an absolutely noble and needed cause,” Stewart said. “Unfortunately, not all laws are perfect, and in this case, the interpretation of the law is resulting in inaccurate data collection, potentially preventing healthy and growing species from being removed from the threatened or endangered list.”
For example, in southern Utah, the Utah prairie dog has been a listed species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) since 1973. In the species recovery plan for the Utah prairie dog, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service counts only prairie dogs living on federal land to determine whether or not the species is recovering and could be delisted. They do not count the thousands of prairie dogs found on state, local and private lands in order to determine recovery.
“As it turns out, like the human population, the prairie dogs prefer to live on land with water, grass and crops,” Stewart said. “As a result, there are large populations of prairie dogs in yards, parks, cemeteries, and fields that never get counted toward recovery because they don’t live on federal lands. Many wonder whether the species could be delisted if these dogs were included in official counts used to determine whether the species is on the path to recovery. Moreover, I am concerned that only counting part of a population of any species to determine species recovery could hugely expand the reach of the ESA.”
“This is a common-sense reform that simply asks for accurate population counts when assessing the status of threatened or endangered species. I have had conversations with the Interior Secretary, Sally Jewel, about this problem and I am hopeful that we will be able to work together to find a solution.” Stewart said.
For a PDF copy of the bill, click here.