On Aug. 23, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service published a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking that proposes to revise the regulations addressing the performance of economic impact analyses of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Public Lands Council, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, the Association of National Grasslands, the American Sheep Industry Association and numerous affiliated livestock associations provided comments and recommendations on the proposed policy changes.
The proposed regulation changes were first outlined in a Presidential Memorandum seeking to improve transparency and public comment by providing the public access to both the scientific analysis and the draft economic analysis when critical habitat is proposed. The livestock groups support this aspect of the proposed rule.
However, other aspects would have the effect of rendering meaningless the economic impact analysis required under the ESA. Congress intended this analysis to be done to determine whether certain areas should be excluded from critical habitat designation to avoid "needless economic dislocation" -- in other words, to determine whether the economic harm outweighs the benefits of a critical habitat designation. The services propose to use the "incremental" or "baseline" approach to analyzing economic impacts, which means that the analysis excludes the impacts of the ESA listing and only includes the incremental impacts that a critical habitat will have on the economy. This waters-down the overall impacts that a listing and consequential critical habitat designation will have on the local economy.
The comments explain the livestock organization's position on the "incremental" approach and also point to the need for transparency in the economic analysis process; consistency with the Data Quality Act; the use of top-quality scientific and commercial data; and the recognition that the "discretion" the secretary has in deciding which areas may be excluded from critical habitat must be exercised in a manner that comports with congressional intent.
Click here to read the full set of comments.
It has been announced that the comment period will be reopened in the near future.