Threatened and Endangered Species –
The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) authorizes the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to categorize diminishing species as threatened or endangered, with the goal of conserving and protecting species while avoiding action that may affect federally-designated habitats.
Throughout its history and following three Congressional reauthorizations, the framework, implications and ineffectiveness of ESA remains fundamentally intact. In a scathing February 4, 2014 Report to Congress, a bipartisan Congressional Working Group found that throughout the 40-year history of ESA, less than 2% of species placed on threatened and endangered lists have recovered sufficiently to be delisted. Put another way, ESA has been 98% ineffective at conserving and protecting species; what ESA has done is burden private property, affect communities economically, and enrich environmental groups and attorneys.
In 2011, FWS negotiated two highly profitable litigation settlements with the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) and Wild Earth Guardians (WEG). Through backroom settlements and outside of public scrutiny, FWS, CBD and WEG colluded and took advantage of missed ESA deadlines, foisting through judicial review a nationwide listing schedule of 250 candidate species. Since the settlement, over 80 percent (210) of those species have either been listed or resulted in proposals-to-list, further burdening an ineffective program and local government with even more species, bureaucracy and land-use problems.
A quantitative study by Southern-Utah and Utah State Universities addressed the question whether the legal or policy impacts of WEG lawsuits has resulted in tax or cost implications for county governments. In order to cover increasing costs resulting from ESA regulatory processes, county governments impacted by the CBD and WEG lawsuits were required to generate additional revenues – that is, taxes. Specifically, the Utah study found that in those counties where WEG has been active, median household income was $2,503 lower than in counties where endangered and threatened activities were not present, and impacted counties also displayed an average of $20,246 in higher Tax receipts than their non-lawsuit counterparts.
In other words, median income went down and taxes went up to fund ineffective threatened and endangered species programs forced on counties through lawsuits.
WEG is aggressively engaged to end livestock grazing on public lands, citing negative environmental impacts. WEGs litigation and policy efforts have focused on removing livestock from national monuments and in surrounding areas, as well as raising the price for federal land grazing permits.
The geographic areas targeted by WEG are heavily dependent upon the agricultural sector for jobs and income. The Utah Study found that for those counties affected by WEG litigation, the farming/ranching industry provided an average of 37,237 jobs and $662 million in economic activity through these jobs. The impact of losing those jobs and the resulting income could prove particularly devastating.
KNRC is dedicated to unearthing, tracking, assessing and publishing contact information and the details of lawsuits, law firms, government administrators and the attorneys who promote them. Results from this initiative can be viewed here.