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New bill in Congress would amend Endangered Species Act

WASHINGTON - A new bill introduced in the House of Representatives would loosen stringent rules protecting grizzly bears. 

That's good news to Idahoans who want reform of the Endangered Species Act.

Last summer on Darcy Lammers farm outside of Bonners Ferry, a grizzly bear tore down a fence and killed two head of sheep. Lammers's daughter, Oliva found the lambs, it was her 4H project and she was heartbroken. 

“I went out there and there were wool and blood everywhere," recalled Lammers.

Lammers was armed, and willing to protect himself and his daughter but had he killed the bear, he would have faced federal felony charges and 10 years in jail.

Congressman Greg Gianforte out of Montana is also fed up with Federal government's rules that protect grizzly bears. His bill is called the Less Imprecision in Species Treatment Act of 2020 or the LIST Act. 

Gianforte’s bill amends the 1973 Endangered Species Act and grants more power to the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the listing and delisting process. It also gives state managers a say in grizzly bear management.

“I think it is a step in the right direction,” said Lammers. "Any reform of the ESA is long overdue. We need to do anything we can to reduce the power of the Act, the ESA that gives special interest groups power to litigate and use the ESA to forcefully lock up public and private land.”

Representative Gianforte says that constant litigation from special interest groups has prevented the US Fish and Wildlife Service from delisting the Grizzly bear and returning management to the states.

“I brought Secretary Bernhardt of the Department of the Interior to meet with families, ranchers, and local leaders in Montana just last fall,” Gianforte said. “Parents told us how they put bars on their windows because the Grizzly bears were looking in their children’s bedrooms. At the point bears view children as a food source, we need to make changes. We need to put human safety ahead of the recovered Grizzly bear.”

Lammers and his family also lived with the threat of grizzly bear attacks last summer and says they’re lucky no one was mauled by a grizzly.

“To me putting human life ahead of animals is just common sense. But it seems that the ESA is written to contradict that,” said Lammers.  

On January 14, 2020, the Fish and Wildlife Service opened up a five-year review on the Grizzly bear under the Endangered Species Act. The Grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem on July 30, 2019, in compliance with a Montana court order. In December of 2019, a federal judge in Missoula instructed the Fish and Wildlife Service to release an overdue report on the status of the Grizzly bear.

“Misuse and abuse of the Endangered Species Act are also shutting down responsible forest management,” Gianforte stated in his speech. “Every forest service project in Montana seemingly ends up in court. We are unable to manage our forests, improve our habitat, and reduce the severity of wildfires. We must put common sense guardrails on the Endangered Species Act. We must restore it to its original purpose of recovering species, not serving as a tool for frivolous lawsuits from extreme special interest groups that work to shut down critical projects in our state.”

Last August, the Department of the Interior finally revised the Endangered Species Act under direction from the Trump Administration. 

One of the revisions mandates that the listing process be based on available scientific data. The updated Endangered Species Act also changed protections for species listed as ‘threatened.’ A public press release from the Department of the Interior says that the revisions “ease the regulatory burden on the American public.”

 Gianforte says the LIST Act addresses abuses In the Endangered Species Act.

 “The bill allows the Fish and Wildlife Service to reverse listings that were made due to bad data, and the bill prohibits abuses of the listing process. It will ban those who intentionally submit false information from submitting listing petitions for ten years. These are common-sense reforms. I am proud to sponsor the LIST Act and support the rest of the package to better protect species, increase collaboration, and improve forest health,” said Gianforte.

The LIST Act was introduced to the House on January 10 and referred to the Committee on Natural Resources. 

“So this proposed bill would be a start toward revamping the ESA to protect human life and livelihood,” said Lammers.