WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee Bob Smith (R-OR) announced his strong support for legislation to consolidate and streamline authority over the Endangered Species Act (ESA) within the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS).
Smith is an original cosponsor of House Resources Committee Chairman Don Young's (R-AK) Endangered Species Consolidation Act (H.R. 4335). This legislation would simply transfer all authority for ESA enforcement to the USFWS.
The ESA divides responsibility for its implementation and enforcement between two different federal agencies in two distinct federal Departments. The Department of the Interior's Fish and Wildlife Service has primary jurisdiction over enforcement and is responsible for listing and developing rules to protect all land based endangered or threatened species and all fresh water fish. NMFS, within the Department of Commerce, holds ESA jurisdiction involving fish in the oceans or those which migrate to the oceans, as well as marine mammals and sea turtles.
With the listing of various salmon species which can migrate hundreds of miles inland to spawn, the jurisdictional reach of NMFS now overlaps that of USFWS. Many individuals and businesses are now required to obtain permits for identical land-based activities from both agencies. In addition, federal agencies whose actions affect endangered species must consult with both USFWS and NMFS in many cases.
"It makes no sense to divide the same authority between separate agencies within the federal government. This bill will consolidate authority, save money, and simplify the process for individuals and the government alike. Endangered species will benefit from increased coordination within the Fish and Wildlife Service and people will benefit from the simplification of rules and procedures," Smith said.
In 1997, the USFWS had approximately 800 employees assigned to protect endangered species and a budget of $80 million, while the National Marine Fisheries Service had approximately 270 employees performing overlapping duties with a budget of $20 million.
Smith represents Oregon's Second Congressional District — which includes most of eastern, southern, and central Oregon — in the U.S. House of Representatives.