The Endangered Species Act was signed into law to help protect and recover animals and wildlife facing critical threats or risk of extinction. As Americans, we share the common goal of protecting our environment, creating healthy ecosystems, and ensuring that our growing human populations can live in tandem with the plants and animals around us.
While the law was well-intentioned, the ESA has not seen meaningful reforms since 1978. Our country has grown and evolved immensely in the last four decades, and it only makes sense to bring this landmark species protection law into the 21st Century.
I have worked alongside my colleagues in the Congressional Western Caucus to modernize the ESA and move species recovery forward more effectively. From ensuring data from local, state, and tribal governments is utilized when making these important decisions to requiring the federal government to disclose their decision-making data to the public, we aim to make the ESA listing process more transparent and responsive to those it affects most.
Americans in rural areas across the country — and right here in Central Washington — are fed up with the federal government mandating one-size-fits-all regulations without considering the needs of local communities. We also understand the importance of locally-led conservation projects, which have effectively resulted in the protection of our land and our native species.
Earlier this Congress, I introduced the WHOLE Act to ensure that all conservation measures are considered when federal decisions impacting ESA-listed species are made. By considering the totality of conservation efforts — not just those established by the federal government — we can incentivize further investment in species recovery and promote more comprehensive efforts between the federal government and states, local communities, and tribes.
The Trump administration has proposed updates to the ESA that will result in effective, science-based conservation. By promoting transparency and commonsense policymaking, these new regulations ensure local input is considered when making critical habitat decisions and will empower our communities to celebrate our species recovery efforts.
While the administration has been making progress, there is still work to do.
The negative impacts of an outdated, overreaching Endangered Species Act are realized throughout our communities in Central Washington. The most glaring example: the gray wolf.
The gray wolf was listed as an endangered species in 1978. At that time, the best available science suggested the species was at risk of extinction. Now, gray wolves can be found across the United States and in nearly 50 countries around the world, and we must use the best available science to delist the gray wolf and allow our states to manage its populations.
In Washington, gray wolf management becomes even more convoluted. With patchwork protections in different areas of our state, it appears we are abandoning scientific reasoning and expecting these apex predators to abide by arbitrary, invisible boundaries.
In 2013, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service found that gray wolf recovery goals had been achieved, yet the effort to delist the animal from the ESA was met with politically motivated attacks and lawsuits by radical environmental groups. As a result, the growing gray wolf population continues to threaten agriculture and livestock, hunting and recreation, and other wildlife — as well as human lives — in communities across the United States.
The recovery of the gray wolf should be considered an ESA success story. As I continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to ensure a modernized, effective Endangered Species Act, I am calling on the administration to use the scientific data we have available: delist the gray wolf, allow our states to manage populations, and celebrate this win for species recovery.