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The Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) supports the emphasis of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) on recovering listed species, preventing the need for listings, and providing flexibility to consider different approaches to protection of endangered or threatened species. But AMWA also supports revising the ESA to minimize social and economic impacts, such as project uncertainty and delays that have historically resulted from meeting or implementing the Act’s requirements. The ESA should protect a listed or candidate species while considering environmental, social and economic tradeoffs.

To accomplish these objectives, AMWA recommends that the ESA specifically include:

  • Pre-listing agreements and recovery plans that consider multi-species habitat and regional or sub-regional ecosystems of which subject species are a part.
  • Scientific peer review of listing decisions and recovery plans to ensure the scientific analysis of information used is fundamentally sound.
  • Provision for adequate federal funding for recovery plans and federal participation in pre-listing agreements.
  • The evaluation, development, and implementation of other protection alternatives before impacting pre-existing development or resource utilization.
  • Broadening recovery teams to include expertise to assist in quantifying and minimizing social and economicimpacts.

Rationale:

  1. The ESA should promote an ecosystem-wide, multi-species approach to recovery and protection over broader landscapes where possible. Such an approach can help protect watersheds and will provide a greater opportunity to rationalize and address the inevitable competition for water for municipal, agricultural, recreational and environmental uses.
  2. Waiting until conditions have deteriorated to the point at which a species is threatened or endangered results in efforts that may require severe restrictions on human activities and intensive and expensive recovery efforts. Pre-listing agreements can emphasize consensus, involve States in the recovery effort, avoid delays from adversarial proceedings, and result in more effective protection of the environment at a lower societal cost.
  3. Because of a constantly expanding database of candidate species, listing decisions must, in part, be based on many assumptions about habitat needs and the viability of populations. Therefore, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife and the National Marine Fisheries Services should solicit opinions from scientists with the appropriate expertise to give these decisions the broadest possible acceptance and credibility.
  4. On occasion, the ESA focus has been on impeding the renewal of federal licenses and permits that clearly provide positive societal benefits.