The U.S. House delegation from Arkansas introduced legislation Thursday requiring the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to consider social and economic evaluations for affected private and public land owners before issuing a Critical Habitat Designation (CHD).
The bill—known as the Common Sense in Species Protection Act, or H.R. 4319—has Rep. Rick Crawford (AR-1) as its sponsor, with Rep. Tim Griffin (AR-2), Rep. Steve Womack (AR-3), and Rep. Tom Cotton (AR-4) serving as cosponsors.
Crawford said his reasoning for sponsoring the bill relates to FWS only using an incremental approach when determining a CHD.
“The Common Sense in Species Protection Act will ensure that a true economic impact study on the people, businesses, and municipalities in the proposed area will take place before any private or public property is put in a Critical Habitat Designation,” said Crawford. “The cumulative approach favored by the Fish and Wildlife Service lacks the common sense necessary to ensure there is no excessive overreach by the agency to the detriment of private and public land owners.”
The bill has gained support among various state and farm groups, including the Arkansas Farm Bureau (ArFB), which lists CHD as a top legislative priority. ArFB President Randy Veach said Congressman Crawford’s bill offers a common-sense approach to cooperatively dealing with endangered species issue in Arkansas and nationwide.
“Expanding the reach of the Endangered Species Act, through designating larger Critical Habitat Areas without taking into consideration their effects on agriculture, would add unnecessary burdensome regulations on farmers and ranchers,” said Veach. “This could drastically affect the economy of the state’s largest industry, agriculture. Representative Crawford’s common-sense approach in his bill would help eliminate this problem. I want to thank the congressman for sponsoring the bill and also thank the rest of the Arkansas congressional delegation, Representatives Cotton, Griffin and Womack for co-sponsoring it.”
The federal agencies involved in determining a CHD, including FWS and the National Marine Fisheries Service, only consider consulting costs with agencies when a federal interaction activity may affect Critical Habitat; basically, the cost of paperwork. These agencies often claim no true economic impact will occur when creating a CHD, based on the assumption the listing process alone realizes any impact.
The Common Sense in Species Protection Act does not interfere or change the listing process, nor does it suggest protecting species as threatened or endangered is inappropriate. The legislation simply requires agencies involved in declaring a CHD to perform a true economic impact study on the people, businesses and municipalities in the proposed area.
Crawford said he appreciated the support of his Arkansas delegation colleagues.
“I want to thank them for joining me as we work to advance this common-sense legislation in the House,” he said. “I think making the Critical Habitat Designation process more transparent will better represent the spirit of the Endangered Species Act and will better serve the lives and livelihoods of all Arkansans.”