State Representation on Species Assessment Teams
New USFWS policy invites governors of affected states to name representatives to species assessment teams
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 — In an October 13, 2017 memo, USFWS Principle Deputy Director Greg Sheehan directed that USFWS will formally request at least two representatives to species assessment teams for states affected by a species status assessment (SSA), subject to the states’ willingness to participate. One member would come from the affected state’s fish and wildlife management agency, and the other would be designated by the respective Governor’s office(s). Under the provisions in the memo, there could be more than two representatives.
The purpose of the directive is to better implement Endangered Species Act requirements for USFWS to coordinate, collaborate, and use the expertise of state agencies in developing the scientific foundation upon which USFWS bases its determinations for listing actions. It will allow the agency to better access data and expertise found at the state level, and is part of a push by the Trump administration to provide states more control over federal environmental policies.
This new requirement is included in the Department of the Interior’s Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2018-2020 as an Agency Priority Goal related to ESA implementation.
Growing Skepticism on Judicial Deference to Agency Decisions
Monday, December 11, 2017 — In an article adapted from a December 4 speech that will appear in a forthcoming Vanderbilt Law Review, 6th U.S. District Court Judge Raymond Kethledge wrote that Chevron deference makes agencies feel entitled and encourages “sloppy work.”
Under the Chevron doctrine, courts defer to “reasonable” agency interpretations of statutes when Congress is silent or ambiguous on an issue. Agencies often win court challenges when invoking this, and related forms of deference. Kethledge writes, “There is no getting around the fact that Chevron deference has created a palpable sense of entitlement among executive agencies, particularly when they show up in court.”
He went on to say, “There’s nothing so liberating for a judge as the discovery of such ambiguity,” adding that it allows judges to manipulate legislative history and apply their own values. Such legislation from the bench often works to the detriment of local economies and communities.
Critics say that such deference gives agencies too much power, allows them to defy Congress, and provides them with a strong advantage over anyone who litigate against their interpretations.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch wrote a sharp criticism of Chevron in a case he heard while still a circuit judge on the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Like Gorsuch, Kethledge clerked for Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. He is on President Trump’s short list for consideration in the event of another Supreme Court vacancy.
USDA Secretary Perdue Presents Agriculture and Rural Prosperity Task Force Report
Tuesday, January 23, 2018 — USDA Secretary Perdue recently presented the findings of the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity to President Trump at the American Farm Bureau Annual Convention in Nashville, Tennessee. The 44-page report responds to Executive Order 13790’s requirement to identify legislative, regulatory, and policy changes to promote agriculture, economic development, job growth, infrastructure improvements, technological innovation, energy security, and quality of life in rural America.
The task force envisions a rural America with world-class resources, tools, and support to build robust, sustainable communities for generations to come. After several public listening sessions across the country, members of the task force met with staff from separate working groups to set priorities and a framework for future activities. The more than 100 recommendations center around five areas:
- E-connectivity for rural America;
- Improving quality of life;
- Supporting a rural workforce;
- Harnessing technological innovations;
- Economic development.
The USDA’s Rural Prosperity website includes a link to the USDA’s Federal Register request for information, where you can submit your recommendations for regulatory reforms that would improve prosperity in rural America. Comments and suggestions will be accepted through July 17, 2018. There is also a short video recap of the task force’s work.