WASHINGTON (Oct. 3, 2005) — The House of Representatives has approved a major overhaul of the Endangered Species Act by a 226-193 vote.
The legislation would place restrictions on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's power to designate protected lands for endangered species, requiring it to use the best available scientific data to prove the need for such designations and set criteria for how species will be taken off the endangered list. The bill also would require the agency to give advance notice of protected land designations and allow public comment.
If enacted, the legislation would be a boon to off-highway vehicle drivers who rely on access to public lands, according to Jason Tolleson, director of the SEMA Action Network within the Specialty Equipment Market Association. “This would set up a more open process,” he said. “It would prevent the current rush to the courthouse and the de facto closure of public lands.”
It's unlikely that the Senate will hold hearings on the bill this year. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, R-R.I., chairman of the subcommittee that has jurisdiction over the legislation, is waiting for a report from environmentalists and industry officials that is not due until late February.