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IB10072 - Endangered Species: Difficult Choices (pdf)

19-Jun-2002; Eugene H. Buck, M. Lynne Corn, and Pamela Baldwin; 19 p.

Update: September 15, 2003


On September 7, 2003, H.R. 7 was ordered reported by the House Committee onWays and Means, 204 of which proposes to exclude landowner incentive payments under ESA 6 from gross income for tax purposes. On September 6, 2003, the House Committee on Resources is scheduled to hold a field oversight hearing in Belen, NM, on the silvery minnow's impact on New Mexico.

Abstract: The 107th Congress considered various measures proposing to amend the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA). Major issues in recent years have focused on whether to incorporate further protection for property owners and reduce regulatory impacts, whether to increase the protection afforded listed species, or whether to modify various aspects of the ESA, such as the role of science in decisionmaking. The Clinton Administration made significant changes to ESA regulations, and many have advocated including these changes in the law itself. The 108th Congress may focus attention on reauthorization, the role of science in ESA decision-making, and on whether the ESA should be modified in the context of Department of Defense activities.

The ESA has been one of the more contentious environmental laws. This may stem from the strict substantive provisions of this law, which can affect the use of both federal and non-federal lands. Under the ESA, certain species of plants and animals (both vertebrate and invertebrate) are listed as either endangered or threatened according to assessments of the risk of their extinction. Once a species is listed, powerful legal tools are available to aid the recovery of the species and the protection of its habitat.

The ESA is administered by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) for terrestrial and freshwater species and some marine mammals, and by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS, now NOAA Fisheries) for marine and anadromous species. The U.S. Geological Surveys Biological Resources Division conducts research on species for which the FWS has management authority.

The authorization for spending under the ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of theESA remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds have been appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of the ESA in each subsequent fiscal year.

In the 107th Congress, the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife, and Water held an oversight hearing on the ESA listing and delisting process. The House Committee on Resources held several hearings on the role of science in ESA proceedings, and a bill was reported. Other hearings were held by House and Senate committees on specific issues. In addition, two bills were introduced to deal comprehensively with reauthorization; these measures did not receive any action. On the international side, theAfrican Elephant Conservation Act (P.L. 107-111), the Rhinoceros and Tiger ConservationAct of 1994 (P.L. 107-112), and the Asian Elephant Conservation Act (P.L. 107-141) were reauthorized.

Early in the 108th Congress, the prominent issues are 1) how the ESA might affect military readiness (H.R. 1235, H.R. 1588, H.R. 1835, S. 747, S. 927, S. 1047, and S. 1050) and 2) what might constitute sound science as a basis for ESA action (H.R. 1097, H.R. 1253, H.R. 1662, and S. 369).

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* These CRS reports were produced by the Congressional Research Service, a branch of the Library of Congress providing nonpartisan research reports to members of the House and Senate. The National Council for Science and the Environment (NCSE) has made these reports available to the public at large, but the Congressional Research Service is not affiliated with the NCSE or the National Library for the Environment (NLE). This web site is not endorsed by or associated with the Congressional Research Service. The material contained in the CRS reports does not necessarily express the views of NCSE, its supporters, or sponsors. The information is provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. NCSE disclaims all warranties, either express or implied, including the warranties of merchantability and fitness for a particular purpose. In no event shall NCSE be liable for any damages.