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Hastings urges halt of bladderpod listing

The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee has written a letter to the Obama administration urging an immediate halt to the listing of a sagebrush species under the Endangered Species Act.

Washington farmers are concerned about potential impact to their property if the White Bluffs Bladderpod is listed as threatened beginning May 23.

Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., drafted a letter to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe urging him to halt enforcement of the listing, postpone finalizing the ruling and extend the public comment period by at least 60 days.

"As you know, I have been highly critical of the Department of Interior's negotiation of settlements behind closed doors with litigious groups that frequently petition and file Endangered Species Act-related lawsuits against the federal government, because they defy transparency and accountability, and raise questions regarding the Service's ESA management priorities," Hastings wrote in the letter. "These settlements also ignore input from states and local entities that are most affected by the potential ESA listing or critical habitat designation. Without a reasonable extension, it would confirm my criticism has been justified."

Hastings said in the letter that the agency has delayed final listings or critical habitat for other species before, including the lesser prairie chicken in the Midwest this year and the dunes sagebrush lizard in late 2011.

Hastings said the federal government should exercise extra caution, citing the constitutional rights of private property owners. The service has identified roughly 2,800 acres as critical habitat for the plant, including 419 acres of private property.

"Other than an arbitrarily-set, closed-door deal to list the White Bluffs Bladderpod in the 2011 settlement, I challenge the Service to explain the urgency for its actions on this species," Hastings wrote.

It was announced last week that Hastings will head a working group to examine the Endangered Species Act.

--Matthew Weaver


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