“With this change, we’re back to the ‘shoot, shovel, and shut up’ status quo.” (PERC Tweet).
A federal district court in California has vacated Trump-administration rules designed to make the Endangered Species Act more fair and effective. The most important rule dealt with the treatment of threatened species, which are species that are not yet endangered but might become so. Kat Downey of the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) explains that the vacated rule had required that regulations “be tailored to the needs of threatened species . . . rather than subjecting them to the across-the-board regulations Congress designed for endangered species.”
The rule encouraged landowners to protect these species because as the species recovered, coercive rules would be lightened. “Under this rule, regulatory restrictions relax as species recover which encourages private landowners to conserve habitat and rewards successful recovery efforts,” wrote Downey.
She quoted PERC’s Jonathan Wood: “By casting aside the rule, the Court restored an approach that ignores the specific needs of threatened species and that has failed to recover species for nearly 50 years.”
In addition, the district court vacated the rules without considering their merits. Said Wood:
“Rule changes should take place in the open, with opportunity for public comment. If this decision stands, future administrations will doubtlessly seek to sidestep the rulemaking process and void their predecessor’s rules through collusive litigation.”
The PERC Tweet above is a jocular but serious reference to actions that landowners might take if the rules are too onerous. The ESA regulations come into effect if you have endangered species on your property (or the Fish & Wildlife Service thinks you may have one). But if you don’t, the ESA will (usually) bypass you. Thus, “shoot, shovel, and shut up.”
For more information about the dropped rules, see this Liberty and Ecology post quoting Heritage Foundation scholar Daren Bakst.
Image of a grizzly bear is by Joaquin Aranoa from Pixabay.