Riders remain in 2019 National Defense Authorization Act

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 5515) made it through the May 9 House Armed Service Committee markup hearing with some policy riders that could affect federal wildlife management and Interior Department lands.

Rep. Rob Bishop. R-Utah, submitted an amendment that would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing the greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus)and the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus) under the Endangered Species Act for 10 years. This same amendment, which was added to the legislation after receiving a 33 to 28 vote, would also remove the American burying beetle (Nicrophorus americanus) from the endangered species list and bar the delisting from judicial review.

The riders join several recent Congressional efforts to modify the Endangered Species Act. Bishop has attempted to add similar provisions to the two previous versions of the defense bill, but they did not make it into the final bills after being stripped during conference committee with the Senate’s version of the legislation. The Senate does not yet have its own defense bill language. Differences that exist between the bills passed by each chamber will need to be reconciled before heading to the president’s desk.

Bishop also sponsored a provision that would extend indefinitely Department of Defense leases on Department of Interior lands without the need for environmental reviews, similar to a bill he introduced last year.

The House package would also allow the Interior secretary to authorize incidental take of marine mammals for Defense Department activities for up to 10 years rather than the current maximum of five years if it is determined to have a negligible impact on any marine mammal species. Proponents view the move as a cost-cutting measure that would reduce red tape for the Navy. Critics say the Marine Mammal Protection Act already allows requirements to be waived for national security and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has never denied Defense a permit for military readiness activities.

For more information, check out The Wildlife Society’s standing position statements on threatened and endangered species and the use of science in policy and management decisions.

Header Image: A provision of the defense bill would extend the Navy’s permits for incidental take of marine mammals. ©Florian Rohart