he American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) Feb. 15 told a U.S. Senate panel the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) “critical habitat” provision should be replaced with a “less expansive habitat preservation system that focuses on preserving essential species habitat without imposing unnecessary and excessive restrictions on development.”
The ESA was originally passed in 1973 and hasn't been amended for nearly 30 years. In a statement submitted to a Senate Environment & Public Works (EPW) Committee oversight hearing entitled, “Modernization of the Endangered Species Act,” ARTBA noted the proper “determination of critical habitat is a very important issue for state and local governments, as well as businesses located in areas impacted by ESA activity. A determination of critical habitat can literally remove hundreds of miles from the possibility of any type of development.”
ARTBA pointed to the impacts of the law on infrastructure projects. “The ESA is a valuable tool in helping to deliver transportation projects in a manner that is most beneficial to both the environment and the communities served by those projects,” ARTBA said. In its current state, however, the ESA has achieved less than a 1 percent rate of success for species recovery. At the same time, it has resulted in multi-year delays for transportation construction projects.”
In other recommendations, the association said Congress should:
Establish a standard to define the “best available” scientific data in decisions concerning endangered or threatened species. This standard should provide for independent peer review of all ESA determinations.
Reform the species listing process to discourage listing of species not actually threatened. Specifically, species should not be able to be listed based on potential threats, only actual impacts. Also, the de-listing process should be streamlined to allow for easier removal of species once they are no longer threatened.
Curb unnecessary ESA litigation by disallowing litigation based on possible development occurring as the result of a proposed transportation project. Only disputes involving the effects of the potential project itself should be considered.
Established in 1902, ARTBA represents the U.S. transportation construction industry before Congress, the White House, federal agencies, courts, news media and the general public.