ESA Proposals Cut Red Tape to Concentrate on Species, Not Paperwork

red tapeNAHB is welcoming proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act announced July 19 as a way to streamline a cumbersome and bureaucratic permitting process – and allow federal regulators to spend more time on species preservation rather than creating red tape.

Builders and developers whose projects require a federal permit (typically for working in wetlands) because their property affects endangered species, or a designated critical habitat for those species, triggering the ESA’s Section 7 consultation process, must first consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, and the Army Corps of Engineers, usually resulting in permitting delays and the loss of buildable lots.

Members will be especially interested in two of the proposed changes.

One would streamline the consultation process by encouraging FWS, NOAA, and the Corps to agree upon a set of general requirements when it is clear that the impacts on species will be minimal rather than requiring the federal agencies to perform an individual analysis for each proposed activity, thus shortening the wait for permits.

Another proposal would require FWS and NOAA to clearly specify what information the developer or builder must supply so the agencies can complete their review.

These regulatory changes should help eliminate some of the time-consuming and often unnecessary permitting delays that have plagued the Section 7 consultation process since its inception.

The other significant change concerns the regulatory definition of “destruction or adverse modification” of critical habitat. Here, the administration has proposed to remove controversial language that had sought to hold developers and builders responsible if federal regulators determined their construction activities could delay the development of habitat features – even those habitat features not found on their property.

“NAHB appreciates this administration’s recognition that simplifying federal regulatory and permitting requirements can go a long way toward actually accomplishing important environmental goals,” said NAHB Environmental Issues Committee chairman Ted Clifton.

For additional information, contact Michael Mittelholzer.

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  1. Joe Honick says:

    Re: Endangered Species:
    Many years ago, I found it quite correct to be lobbying for increased residential energy standards on behalf of various organizations in the insultation and energy industries. We began in California in 1983 and successfully advanced the popular concept to Washington. Along the way, NAHB friends from my time in the association and as a Life Director came to me to object to my efforts as making it more difficult to sell homes. I pointed out correctly, as it turned out, the effort instead would HELP sell their homes. If builders were to market their community concerns about threatened species, it might help rather than hinder in much the same way instead of the industry too frequently fighting such things.

  2. John Godec says:

    Evidence from the past 18 months clearly suggests that this is not about ‘streamlining’ anything, that’s simply a euphemism for gutting another piece of public policy that was crafted by both side of the aisle and repaired a lot of of the biological damage done over decades. These laws should be continually reconsidered, streamlined and improved to reflect the times and changing conditions. But considering what has transpired with Departments of Environmental Quality and Interior, these are clearly shortsighted, self-serving acts of those ignoring the long term consequences for all of us.

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