Analysis of data on endangered species consultations reveals nothing regarding their economic impacts

Defenders of Wildlife personnel analyzed data gathered from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marines Fisheries Service from 2008 to 2015 regarding their consultations under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The authors reported that approximately 80 percent of formal consultations are completed within the time limit mandated by the ESA. They also reported that the number of instances where consultation led to a determination that a proposed action is likely to jeopardize one or more listed species or result in the destruction or adverse modification of designated critical habitat is extremely small. Based on those observations, the authors conclude that consultation does not hinder economic development. As we explain in this response to the analysis, the conclusion cannot be drawn on the basis of the analysis. In reality, consultation frequently leads to significant changes to proposed actions, often materially increasing the costs of implementing such actions in order to minimize effects on listed species or designated critical habitat. The consultations with respect to operations of the Central Valley Project and State Water Project in the Delta are the poster children for this point.

Weiland PS, Glen A, Meyer S, Quarles S, Thornton R, Wahlberg B. 2016. Analysis of data on endangered species consultations reveals nothing regarding their economic impacts. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 113: E1593.

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