Senators Daines, Tester Introduce Bill Weakening Protections for Endangered Species

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Senators Daines, Tester Introduce Bill Weakening Protections for Endangered Species

Another Attempt to Overrule Courts and Slow Landscape-level Protections for Species

WASHINGTON - A proposed bill in Congress would reverse a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals decision from 2015 that required agency re-consultation for federal management plans regarding endangered species. The bill was introduced Monday by Montana senators Steve Daines, a Republican, and Jon Tester, a Democrat, joined by Rep. Mike Simpson (R-Idaho) and Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.)

The ‘‘Litigation Relief for Forest Management Projects Act’’ would exempt the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management from consulting with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service over already approved land-management plans when new species are protected as endangered or new critical habitat is designated. Such consultations help ensure that newly protected species are not jeopardized by ongoing management. A study from 2015 showed that not a single industry project was halted as a result of Section 7 Consultation.

“This bill is just another cynical attack to weaken a key provision of the Endangered Species Act,” said Kierán Suckling, executive director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “We’re deeply disappointed to see Senator Tester and Representative Peterson once again joining Republican efforts to undermine the Endangered Species Act. Federal land-management agencies can — and should — make needed updates to plans when new species are protected.”

The 9th Circuit held in the 2015 Cottonwood Environmental Law Center v. U.S. Forest Service case that the Forest Service had violated the Endangered Species Act when it failed to reinitiate consultation for a logging plan after critical habitat on federal lands was designated for the Canada lynx. The court also, however, held that mere procedural violations were no longer enough to show irreparable harm and warrant injunctive relief, meaning that such consultations are not a major impediment to completing projects with little harm to endangered species. The Forest Service has also already completed or is near completing consultations over the lynx, as required by the court, calling into question the need for this legislation.

“The Forest Service and BLM typically have years of notice before species or habitat receive protection and have become more proficient at working with the wildlife agencies to ensure that endangered wildlife aren’t negatively impacted by logging, mining and other activities,” said Suckling. “There is just no need for this legislation."

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At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature - to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law, and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters, and climate that species need to survive.

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