Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on November 28, 2022
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on February 15, 2023
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 22, 2023
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) recommends that Congress maintain and support the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) by:
- Requiring that science and engineering apply to the process of identifying and listing critical habitat.
- Requiring that critical habitat decisions be based on improved collection and field testing of data and undergo peer review.
- Allowing all interested parties to consult with the Department of the Interior to determine whether a proposed federal action will jeopardize a species.
- Requiring that risk-based social and economic analyses of critical habitat designations be considered.
- Maintaining the use of incentives for conservation of species, including "no surprises" assurances and provisions for multi-species conservation plans as required under current federal regulations.
- Requiring that mitigation through Habitat Conservation Plans be reasonable and prudent, fully funded, and related to the nature and extent of the impact.
- Requiring the Department of the Interior to update the scientific basis of listing and recovery plans regularly to ensure that the newest, most pertinent science underpins species listing.
- Requiring the Department of the Interior implement measures to delist species and applicable habitats in a reasonable time when new data and pertinent science demonstrate that recovery has been successful.
- Providing funding sufficient to support science and research activities to appropriately identify at-risk species and mitigation techniques to avoid undue negative impacts to infrastructure projects.
The Endangered Species Act is intended to protect and conserve endangered and threatened species and their habitats. Section 4 of the ESA directs the Secretaries of Commerce and the Interior to list threatened and endangered species and to designate their critical habitats based on "the best scientific and commercial data available." Section 7 of the ESA prescribes the steps that federal agencies must take to ensure that their actions do not jeopardize endangered wildlife and flora. It provides that every federal agency consult with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce to ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by a federal agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered or threatened species.
The decision to list a species as endangered or threatened is made without reference to the economic effects of that decision. Listing alone results in certain protections for the species, including a requirement that federal agencies "ensure that any action authorized, funded, or carried out by such agency is not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of any endangered species or threatened species." These protections may impose economic burdens that are not considered during listing.
Government, business, and industry make investments to protect and enhance the habitat of endangered species. It is essential that these resources are allocated based on peer-reviewed engineering and science as well as a balance between environmental and economic considerations.
ASCE Policy Statement 438
First Approved in 1995