The Association of O&C Counties (AOCC) expressed support for several regulatory changes proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that would improve implementation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by those agencies. The agencies released information about the proposed changes today in a press release as well as on a public conference call.
“This is a good first step,” said Douglas County Commissioner and AOCC President Tim Freeman. “The ESA performs a very important function, but like most any aging government program, the regulations surrounding it need updating and streamlining. The major social and economic impacts from decisions made under the ESA justify a thorough examination of every process and regulation.”
AOCC Executive Director Rocky McVay expressed similar, cautious optimism.
“The summary of the proposed changes sounds like they will be very helpful, but we need to study the 115 pages of material that will be published in the Federal Register to make sure we fully understand what the proposed changes will do,” McVay said.
“The proposed changes address, among other things, the nature of protections afforded threatened, as compared to, endangered species; the designation of critical habitat; the consultation process when there are proposed projects that might possibly affect a species; and the process for delisting a species that has recovered and no longer is in need of protection. Although on first review all of the changes seem long overdue, there is clearly more to be done, but the administration is definitely headed in the right direction with these proposals,” McVay said.
While generally supportive, AOCC expressed concern that most of the new regulations may not apply to species already listed, such as the Northern Spotted Owl.
“If these rule changes are not applied to past listings and critical habitat designations, they will not do much good here in Western Oregon,” Commissioner Freeman said. “We intended to look carefully at that question and if the improvements are not retroactive as they are being proposed, we will push hard in the rulemaking process to see if the agencies can be persuaded to make them retroactive.”