Washington, D.C.,
12:00 AM

Round Two: Defenders testifies on Endangered Species Act Section 7 consultations

For Immediate Release

WASHINGTON (March 28, 2017) – Ya-Wei Li, Defenders of Wildlife’s vice president for endangered species conservation, is testifying today before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on the effectiveness of consultations under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which helps ensure that federal projects do not threaten the survival of endangered species. Mr. Li and Jacob Malcomb produced an extensive study of section 7 consultations in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in 2015.

The ESA is the most comprehensive law any nation has enacted to protect imperiled species. Many of its protections come from section 7. This is the second time in two months that Defenders has testifiedbefore Congress on the effectiveness of the Endangered Species Act.

Statement from Defenders’ Vice President of Endangered Species Conservation Ya-Wei Li:

“The Endangered Species Act has two missions: to prevent extinction and recover endangered species. Consultations help achieve these goals by ensuring that federal projects don’t threaten the survival of endangered wildlife or destroy the critical habitat they need to recover.

“Today’s panel complains about the consultation process, but the majority’s witnesses offer nothing more than cherry-picked examples. Those anecdotes, however, do not show that the consultation process is broken. In our 2015 study, we found that out of over 88,000 projects that underwent consultations in seven years, none was stopped because of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service finding that a project would jeopardize a species or adversely modify critical habitat. We also found that during that time, the median duration of informal consultations was just 13 days and formal consultations was just 62 days. Less than 2 percent of consultations failed to meet the 135-day timeframe allowed by ESA regulations without a mutual extension. And nearly 93 percent of the projects during that time did not even need to go beyond the first, informal stage of consultation.

“We are firmly committed to helping the agencies do their job efficiently. For the less than two percent of projects that are delayed, administrative and management improvements can help resolve those issues. Congress should focus instead on the bigger challenges facing Americans today. As recent polling has shown, Americans from all parties want to stop extinction. The ESA does that, and section 7 plays a critical role by allowing important projects to go forward while ensuring that they do not imperil wildlife.”

“It’s important to remember that the consultation process, like the rest of the programs under the ESA, has had to function in the face of severe budget cuts that have plagued the Act for decades. Today, I’m testifying before Congress not only to talk about section 7, but to remind our lawmakers that the ESA has been starved. With adequate funding and administrative refinement, this critical and successful program can become even more efficient and effective.”

Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act:

  • Section 7 of the ESA helps ensure that federal projects do not threaten the survival of threatened or endangered species. It directs federal agencies to consult with the FWS or NMFS when their actions may affect those species or their critical habitat.
  • Consultations ensure that federal actions do not jeopardize a listed species or destroying or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.
  • Between 2008 and 2015, over 81,000 projects moved forward without requiring additional review under the “formal” consultation process.
  • Over 6,000 projects advanced with only minor or reasonable changes to protect wildlife.
  • Only two projects were found to jeopardize a species, and neither of those were stopped.
  • Less than 2% of projects during that time were delayed beyond the 135-day consultation deadline.
  • Section 7 consultations are usually efficient, but can be improved. However, they should be improved through administrative reform and funding increases--not legislative attacks on the Endangered Species Act.

Defenders of Wildlife is dedicated to the protection of all native animals and plants in their natural communities. With over 1.8 million members and activists, Defenders of Wildlife is a leading advocate for innovative solutions to safeguard our wildlife heritage for generations to come. For more information, visit Newsroom.Defenders.org and follow us on Twitter @DefendersNews.