Herrell hopes the bill will protect the industry from species conservation
Republican United States Representative Yvette Herrell of New Mexico sought to protect industries like oil and gas through a recent bill of what she said were threats posed by federal protections to endangered plant and animal species.
Herrell feared that critical habitat designations could place an undue burden on industry and thus threaten local and state economies. Critical habitat designations are designed to protect areas where threatened or endangered species live or may live, limiting development by including use for oil and gas operations.
Herrell is the state’s second-largest rural district, covering most of the southern half of New Mexico, known for its oil, gas, and agricultural activities.
But the region is also home to several species like the little prairie chicken and dune sagebrush lizard in southeastern New Mexico. The Dune Mugwort Lizard has been labeled Endangered but has not yet been listed as Threatened or Endangered under ESA. Little Prairie Chicken is nominated for listing under the ESA.
There is also the prairie jumping mouse and Mexican spotted owl in the Lincoln National Forest. The meadow jumping mouse is protected under the ESA, while the Mexican spotted owl is only protected under a United States forest management agreement plan.
Efforts to protect these animals shouldn’t sacrifice necessary local industry, Herrell said, and she hoped to codify into law a rule made by the administration of former President Donald Trump. allowing the US Fish and Wildlife Service to exclude areas from habitat designations depending on their potential economic impact.
His bill was co-sponsored by a group of Republican congressmen from Arkansas, Texas and Arizona.
“New Mexico has become the zero point for extreme applications of the Endangered Species Act (ESA),” Herrell said. “From the Mexican spotted owl to the chicken of the little prairie, ESA designations are impacting some of our state’s most important industries and have crushed others. “
She argued that the designations could cost jobs in New Mexico and that Congress must act to prevent further economic damage from conservation decisions.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service must be allowed to take these economic impacts into account when deciding which lands will be most restricted for use and designated as critical habitat,” Herrell said. “Without this discretion, jobs will be lost and our way of life in southern New Mexico will be threatened.”
Herrell’s bill clashes with Biden’s proposal
The legislation came as President Joe Biden and his administration announced a series of SEC reforms, including the repeal of the rule that Herrell sought to codify.
A rule proposal published Wednesday in the Federal Register by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, if approved, would align the ESA with a decree issued by Biden in January calling on federal agencies to review policy decisions made during the Trump administration.
In addition to removing the economic impact requirement, the Service also proposed removing a Trump-era rule that allowed critical habitat designations only for areas where protected species lived.
Environmental groups have argued that this rule would hamper population growth and range expansion by not allowing protection of areas to which a species might migrate during recovery.
Santa Fe-based WildEarth Guardians sued the Trump administration and a coalition of environmental groups earlier this year over its regulations, arguing they did not comply with ESA requirements.
Joe Bushyhead, the group’s endangered species policy advocate, said Biden’s planned rule review was a step towards repairing environmental damage he said was caused by the Trump administration .
“In the midst of an extinction crisis, we are pleased to see the Biden administration restore important protections for endangered wildlife,” said Joe Bushyhead, endangered species policy advocate for WildEarth Guardians. “Identifying critical habitat is one of the most effective tools to prevent species from becoming extinct. “
Other groups have criticized the Biden administration’s efforts to conserve endangered species, after the Fish and Wildlife Service last week declared 23 species extinct.
The Center for Biological Diversity claimed the administration missed decision-making deadlines on 66 species, including the 12-month results for the Rio Grande River cooter, the glowing Indian brush and the silver spot from the Great Basin in New Mexico.
The Service publishes 12-month findings to propose whether a species is listed, following a petition to that effect.
Noah Greenwald, director of endangered species at the Center, said delaying the process could lead to further damage to the species and called on the Biden administration to speed up the process.
“The Fish and Wildlife Service’s species listing process is just too slow to cope with the extinction crisis, and Biden officials need to speed things up,” he said. “If the service cannot streamline its decision making and follow its own work plan, we are going to lose more plants and animals to extinction.”
To provide more federal funds in hopes of increasing species conservation, U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich recently introduced the Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (RAWA), which would allocate $ 1.3 billion in federal funds annually to the conservation.
The bill would also provide $ 97.5 million per year to tribal nations for the conservation of approximately 140 million acres of land, and would require federal efforts to follow state action plans for wildlife.
It would also direct revenue from fees and penalties resulting from environmental violations to support the Bill’s programs.
RAWA was co-sponsored by Republican U.S. Senator Roy Blunt of Missouri, and was supported by the rest of the New Mexico Democratic Congressmen in the House and Senate.
“Protecting fish and wildlife habitat in the United States means conserving the creatures we love before they are in jeopardy,” said Heinrich. “After all, our children deserve to inherit all of America’s wildlife, from bumblebees to bison, that we know today. This legislation will make that possible.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-618-7631, [email protected] or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.