Congressman Greg Walden

Representing the 2nd District of Oregon

Greg Walden urges Obama Administration to allow more time for public input on new endangered species regulations

June 17, 2014
Press Release

Greg Walden urges Obama Administration to allow more time for public input on new endangered species regulations 

WASHINGTON, D.C.  — U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Hood River) and 42 other Members of Congress have urged two federal agencies to give more time for the public to comment on three proposed Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that would make sweeping changes to how critical habitat designations are determined under the law.

“The Endangered Species Act has already severely impacted rural communities throughout the West. And now the Obama Administration is proposing to further expand their authority under the ESA with little time for public input,” Walden said. “Sixty days is simply not enough time for the public to read, understand, and comment on these proposals that would make sweeping changes to how the ESA is implemented on the ground. The Administration must give rural citizens as much time as possible to explain how these new rules could affect Oregon farms, ranches, and communities.”

Federal agencies often offer 90 or 120 day comment periods for complex rules that can have significant economic impact. For these proposed rules, which were released on May 12, 2014 after more than a year of internal Administration review, the public has been given 60 days to offer input. The letter was sent to U.S. Fish and Wildlife (FWS) Director Dan Ashe and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Administrator Kathryn Sullivan to request a six month extension of the public comment period on the three regulations. For a copy of the signed letter, please click here.

The Members went into detail about their concerns with the proposals and why the public should be given more time to give their input. “As written, these rules could dramatically increase the amount of private and public lands designated for habitat, which in turn could result in blocking or slowing down an array of agricultural, grazing, energy transmission and production, transportation, and other activities on the more than 680 current habitat designations and hundreds more slated to be finalized in the next few years,” Walden and the other representatives wrote in the letter.

In Oregon, northern spotted owl critical habitat designations have already led to federal timber harvests dropping by more than 90 percent in the last 30 years. Facing an arbitrary court-ordered deadline of September 2015, rural communities across eastern Oregon are rushing to prevent the listing of the Greater sage-grouse under the ESA in hopes of avoiding the detrimental economic impacts that have come along with species listings elsewhere in the West.

“There is a history of concerns that we and others have had with the FWS’ and NOAA’s interpretations of critical habit designations, economic analyses methodology, and regulations stemming from hundreds of listings from closed-door settlements with litigious groups.  In light of these concerns, we are surprised and disappointed that the FWS and NOAA would seek to finalize, within just 60 days, multiple rule changes of this significance without more advance notification of Congress, and with insufficient time for affected stakeholders to provide meaningful input,” the representatives continued.