Weekly Newsletter – 10/13/17

Home/Newsletters/Weekly Newsletter – 10/13/17

Weekly Newsletter – 10/13/17


House Committee wants less paperwork from federal agencies. The House Small Business Committee held a hearing this week to discuss what government agencies were doing to decrease the extensive reporting requirements that are currently imposed on small businesses.

In his testimony before the committee, Stephen Guertin, deputy director for policy at the U.S.  Fish and Wildlife Service, said that cutting down on paper use is one of the agency’s goals. “We strive to limit the information and paperwork requirements we place on the public, balancing our data and information needs with the associated burden,” Guertin said.

Representative Ralph Norman (R-S.C.) was particularly critical of the copious reporting requirements required by the Agency’s Endangered Species Act. Norman, who owns a small real estate firm, said he’s had to fill out paperwork “on any development” his business has done and that “It’s time to do something about this.” The hearing was held a day after a bill that would require “that in a notice of proposed rulemaking for a new rule, the notice shall identify two rules which the agency intends to repeal” was introduced to the House.

House panel discusses bills on hydropower and fisheries. The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans held a hearing this week to discuss two bills, both aimed at reforming how endangered salmon species are protected. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) presented H.R. 3144 before the committee on Thursday. The bill would bar any action against limiting generation at a hydroelectric dam or navigation on the Snake River in Washington, Oregon and Idaho unless authorized by Congress.

The bill was prompted by a ruling from a federal judge in March that ordered federal dam operators on the Colombia and Snake rivers increase water releases to improve survival rates of juvenile salmon starting in 2018. As hydropower generated from these dams supplies much of the energy in the State of Washington, Rodgers was influenced to act, saying she believes “dams and fish can coexist.” The panel also discussed a bill presented by Rep. Ken Calvert (R-California) that would give Fish and Wildlife full control over ESA decisions for fish species, like salmon, that migrate between fresh water and salt water. Under current law, the Service handles ESA decisions for marine wildlife that live in fresh water and NOAA makes decisions for those species that live in salt water.

“Currently, both fish and people are held hostage by two agencies that don’t work well together with respect to the Endangered Species Act,” Rep. Calvert told his colleagues. “My bill would end the situation.” If approved by the panel, the bills will eventually be heard on the House Natural Resources Committee floor for a vote.

In the News

A few more reasons for keeping prairie grouse around. Capital Journal (opinion). Hunting them is the best way to learn how to appreciate them. There are four species of prairie grouse; lesser and greater prairie chickens, sage grouse and sharptail grouse. Fort the most part, all of them need vast expanses of grassland to thrive. In the cases of lesser prairie chickens and sage grouse, their habitats have shrunk so much that both species have found themselves candidates for the federal Endangered Species List. I’d heard about the hunt and had asked if I could tag along to write about it. There are some big issues involved with prairie grouse, not the least of which is their continued decline throughout much of their historic ranges. If grouse, including greater prairie chickens, continue to struggle there’s a real chance they could find themselves on the endangered species list.

Little owl sparks a large ESA flap. E&E News (sub req’d). The cactus ferruginous pygmy-owls that inhabit Arizona are sticking the Fish and Wildlife Service with a pretty big problem. And it’s not just the owl that gives a hoot. The federal agency is scrambling to save its interpretation of a crucial but notoriously ambiguous phrase in the Endangered Species Act. What an Arizona-based judge next decides in a lawsuit over the pygmy-owl could buffet officials and other species alike. “The bottom line is, they are looking for a way to avoid listing species,” said attorney Eric Glitzenstein, who represents environmental groups challenging the agency. The ESA phrase in question is “significant portion of its range.” Under the 1973 law, officials must determine whether a species is at mortal risk throughout either all or a significant portion of its range. Consequently, how the phrase is interpreted can determine whether a species is deemed threatened or endangered or is denied Endangered Species Act protections altogether.

Suit Seeks to Stop Oil-Gas Drilling on 9 Public Land Parcels. Associated Press. A Colorado county and three environmental groups have sued the federal government, saying the sale of nine oil and gas leases on public land in southwestern Colorado could harm the threatened Gunnison sage grouse. The lawsuit filed in Denver federal court Tuesday says the federal Bureau of Land Management didn’t consult with wildlife managers and didn’t conduct required reviews before selling leases in March. The lawsuit asks a judge to invalidate the leases. Agency spokesman Jayson Barangan said officials hadn’t seen the lawsuit and couldn’t comment. The Gunnison sage grouse was protected under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. Only about 5,000 remain, all in southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. The suit was filed by the San Miguel County commissioners, Rocky Mountain Wild, San Juan Citizens Alliance and Conservation Colorado.

Cascades Frog Closer to California Endangered Species Act Protection. Center for Biological Diversity (Press release). In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Fish and Game Commission today designated the Cascades frog as a candidate for protection under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Cascades frogs are no longer found in most of the mountain lakes and streams of Northern California where they once lived, primarily due to disease and predation by introduced fish. Cascades frogs have completely disappeared from Lassen Volcanic National Park. “Cascades frogs are tough little amphibians, but they desperately need our help to survive the dramatic habitat changes occurring in Northern California,” said Jeff Miller with the Center. “Protecting these frogs under the California Endangered Species Act should spur habitat restoration measures, invasive species control and reintroduction of frogs to their former habitats.” As a candidate species, the Cascades frog will receive all the protections of a state listed species for a year while the commission decides whether to provide permanent endangered species protections.

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