Cornyn: Give Locals a Say in Endangered Species Listings
Measure Will End Closed-Door Agreements, Allow Affected Stakeholders to Participate
WASHINGTON – Today U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) introduced a bill to amend the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to give local parties a say in the settlement of litigation between special interest groups and the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS):
“ESA litigation is being manipulated in a way that shuts out those folks most affected by the kind of settlements we’re seeing, so my bill opens up the process to give job creators and local officials a say.”
Sen. Cornyn’s bill is cosponsored by Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY), Tom Coburn M.D. (R-OK), Jim Inhofe (R-OK), Mike Lee (R-UT), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Pat Roberts (R-KS), and David Vitter (R-LA).
Last year two environmental groups settled multi-district litigation with FWS that resulted in a “work plan” for the agency to make endangered species list determinations for hundreds of species and the payment of expensive litigation fees to the plaintiffs. The settlements will have a broad impact, but involved only the plaintiff groups and FWS. Closed-door ESA settlements like these not only threaten undue regulation and waste taxpayer dollars, but give plaintiffs too much leverage over local landowners, businesses and local government in the conservation process.
Sen. Cornyn’s ESA settlement reform bill will protect Americans from these closed-door settlements, amending the ESA to give states, counties and other affected parties a greater say in the settlement of certain “citizen suits.” It will also limit the use of U.S. taxpayer dollars to fund these kinds of lawsuits.
The settlements required an accelerated listing decision for the sand dune lizard native to West Texas. Sen. Cornyn requested a delay to provide stakeholders in West Texas the opportunity to be heard and for FWS Director Daniel Ashe to visit the region to see how a listing would have been harmful to the economy, after which FWS decided not to list the lizard as endangered. Sen. Cornyn has also introduced a bill to block four species of Central Texas salamanders from being listed, a move that could hinder job growth and economic development in the area.
Senator Cornyn serves on the Finance, Judiciary, Armed Services and Budget Committees. He serves as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee’s Immigration, Refugees and Border Security subcommittee. He served previously as Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice, and Bexar County District Judge.