Even as we strive to make housing a national priority, the NAHB remains fully committed to our long-standing advocacy efforts on a broad range of regulatory and legislative issues that impact housing.
Because these laws and regulations can greatly affect how and where we build, we monitor them closely and put every effort into ensuring that they are necessary, sensible, and effective. This is particularly important in the environmental arena, where litigation often defines the federal regulatory agenda, rule-making deadlines are tight, and agencies frequently lack sufficient data on which to base regulatory actions that can have a significant effect on the cost and availability of housing.
In late September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it will examine another 374 animal and plant species found in more than a dozen states across the Mid-Atlantic, Southeastern, and Gulf Coast regions to determine if they should be protected under the Endangered Species Act. This is in addition to the 251 species that are currently on the “Candidate Species” list and part of the more than 700 species nationwide that Fish and Wildlife Service agreed earlier this year to consider by 2017. To put these numbers in perspective, a total of 1,370 species have been listed in the 38 years since the Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973. Now the Fish and Wildlife Service is committed to reviewing roughly the same number of species over the next six years.
It’s important to remember that none of these recent actions mean these species are now protected under the Endangered Species Act, but they are a first step. If the Fish and Wildlife Service eventually determines that any of the species should be listed as either “endangered” or “threatened,” federal protections will apply, which often translates into additional permitting requirements and regulatory limitations placed on landowners. Even more restrictions will apply once critical habitat is designated, which can effectively put an area off limits to future development.
The Fish and Wildlife Service’s most recent actions are the result of voluntary legal settlements between Fish and Wildlife and environmental groups whose goal was to increase the speed of the Endangered Species Act listing process. Unfortunately, pressuring the agency to evaluate hundreds of species quickly and without solid scientific information is likely to result in hasty decisions that neither offer adequate protections for species nor reasonable mitigation options. It will also result in inappropriate regulatory burdens on landowners and project proponents whose property and/or operations occur in areas where these species are found.
Like other Americans, home builders recognize the need to protect and preserve the nation’s vast natural resources. With the Fish and Wildlife Service poised to potentially double the number of species protected by the Act, builders must be all the more vigilant in participating to minimize the impacts to their operations. As part of this most recent process, Fish and Wildlife will accept comments on the 374 species until Nov. 28. I urge builder associations to determine if members will be affected if the species located in their areas are eventually listed as threatened or endangered and to comment accordingly.
For our part, the NAHB will be monitoring the process closely and doing everything possible to protect our members’ interests. Because the Endangered Species Act specifically precludes consideration of any economic costs, lost jobs, or even the feasibility that landowners or local governments can comply with its restrictions on land use, the NAHB will also be advocating for overall reform of the Endangered Species Act rules to make them more realistic, reasonable, and efficient.
For more information, go to: www.NAHB.org/ESA.