TWS asks for science-based decision making in ESA listings

By Jennifer Becar

©Robert Lyle Bolton

On Aug. 8, The Wildlife Society issued a letter to the Congressional Conference Committee for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, asking that three amendments within the bill be removed due to the long-term consequences they would have on science-based wildlife management and conservation. The amendments, if passed with the bill, would disrupt the important, ongoing work of wildlife professionals to conserve the greater sage-grouse, lesser prairie-chicken, and American burying beetle.

One amendment puts in place a delay on Endangered Species Act listing decisions for the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), mandating that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service take no action on listing the species prior to 2026. The amendment would also undermine the ongoing collaborative efforts of wildlife professionals, land managers, and private landowners by setting aside federal resource management plans. FWS decided in 2015 not to list this species, but is scheduled to review the species’ status in 2020.

Another amendment prevents the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) from being listed until at least 2022. The species was recently delisted following a court order.

A third amendment requires FWS to remove endangered species status from the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus). FWS has been petitioned to delist the beetle, and is in the process of reviewing the status of the species to determine if listing is still warranted.

In their letter, TWS explained that these amendments undermine the use of science in determining strategies for wildlife management and conservation. Rather than relying on existing federal framework that uses the best available science to determine species listings, these amendments allow legislative authority to mandate management and conservation of wildlife with no regard to population trends or other scientific information.

Similar amendments have come through Congress in the past. Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act also included language impacting the listing of the greater sage grouse. TWS sent a letter in regards to this amendment as well, which was ultimately withdrawn.

Read TWS’ policy for Use of Science in Policy and Management Decisions.

Becar_Headshot Jennifer Becar is a policy intern at The Wildlife Society as part of the Government Affairs & Partnership program.

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