Every four years, the American Farm Bureau Federation asks the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees to address the issues that concern farmers and ranchers the most. We asked Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican nominee Donald Trump the same questions.
Do you know the background of the Endangered Species Act or ESA? If you live in the western United States you most likely grew-up understanding the impacts of the ESA. If you live east of the Mississippi River, the ESA is likely coming your way.
Originally enacted in 1973, Congress envisioned a law which would protect species believed to be on the brink of extinction. When the law was enacted, there were 109 species listed for protection. Today, there are nearly 1,600 domestic species on the list, with 125 species considered as “candidates” for listing.
The implications of the ESA extend beyond the farm or ranch to every property owner. The ESA is a litigation-driven model that rewards those who use the courtroom at the expense of those who practice positive conservation efforts.
The impacts of the ESA fall more unfairly on farmers and ranchers. Why? Because farmers and ranchers own most of the land where plant and animal species are found. The land is open, unpaved and relatively undeveloped, so that it provides actual or potential habitat for listed plants and animals. Often farm or ranch practices enhance habitat, thereby attracting endangered or threatened species to their property. Thereby limiting the use for commonplace farming practices. It is a vicious paradox!
All the while the ESA has failed at recovering and delisting species since its inception. Less than two percent of all listed species have been removed from ESA protection since 1973, and many of those are due to extinction or “data error.”
Farm Bureau believes that endangered and threatened species protection can be more effectively achieved by providing incentives to private landowners and public land users rather than by imposing land use restrictions and penalties.
We asked each of the candidates the following question:
Privately owned land provides habitat for the majority of our nation’s endangered and threatened species. As a result landowners often face harsh regulatory restrictions on their ability to use the land or, worse, lawsuits or enforcement actions. Meanwhile, few species have actually been recovered under the law. It’s time to think about incentive-based programs that create a positive role for landowners in species recovery. The law is overdue for review and revamping. As president, how would you fix the broken Endangered Species Act, and what role would you assign America’s landowners?
“Hillary knows that America’s ranchers and farmers are proud stewards of their lands, and that America’s wildlife depend on the health of working lands to survive and thrive. That is why she will increase both the availability and accessibility of funding to incentivize voluntary private conservation. For example, Hillary will work to fully fund the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and will instruct her Secretary of Agriculture to establish a “one-stop shop” to help farmers and ranchers identify programs that can provide financial support for their conservation practices, including securing additional access for sportsmen, including hunters.
Hillary also believes that we should be doing more to slow and reverse the decline of at-risk wildlife species before reach the brink of extinction and need the protection Endangered Species Act. To this end, Hillary will propose nearly doubling the State and Tribal Wildlife Grants program to $100 million per year. This type of support for the voluntary conservation of at-risk wildlife can help reduce the need for species to receive the protections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). For wildlife that are listed as threatened or endangered, Hillary will direct federal agencies to take full advantage of the flexible tools available under the ESA that respect and accommodate landowner interests, including safe harbor agreements, habitat conservation agreements, and other forms of voluntary conservation measures.”
“America is blessed with abundant natural resources and beautiful wildlife. Our nation has a proud tradition of conservation and stewardship. This is more true for farmers than anyone else. Farmers care more for the environment than the radical environmentalists. Regrettably, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) has a poor track record of actually helping to recover animals at risk of extinction. In truth, the ESA has become a tool to block economic development, deny property rights to American landowners, and enrich activist groups and lawyers. Instead of saving endangered species, the Obama-Clinton bureaucrats are endangering American workers with disastrous choices made at the whim of extreme activist groups.
As President, I will direct the Interior Department and Commerce Department to conduct a top-down review of all Obama Administration settlements, rules, and executive actions under the Endangered Species Act and other similar laws, and we will change or rescind any of those actions that are unlawful, bad for American farmers and workers, or not in the national interest. I will also work closely with Congress to improve and modernize the Endangered Species Act—a law that is now more than 30 years old—so that it is more transparent, uses the best science, incentivizes species conservation, protects private property rights, and no longer imposes needless and unwarranted costs on American landowners.”