On October 10, 2013, the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group (Working Group) held a forum entitled “Reviewing 40 Years of the Endangered Species Act and Seeking Improvement for People and Species.” The forum featured 17 panelists, who discussed ways in which the Endangered Species Act (ESA) can be strengthened and improved to better serve the needs of both species and people. Participants specifically highlighted the need to empower states, local governments, and private landowners to conserve species and avoid federal listings, the need for balance within the law, the importance of transparent data and science, and the need to prevent the ESA from being used as a tool for lawsuits and closed-door settlements with litigious groups.

While the Working Group advertised the forum as including a diverse group of panelists, as we reported here, there was some dispute over whether representatives of key environmental groups were invited to attend. Notably absent from the forum were representatives from the Center for Biological Diversity, WildEarth Guardians, and Defenders of Wildlife. Rather, the panel included representatives of and advocates for regulated entities, including oil and gas executives, as well as state elected officials. A representative from the Nature Conservancy participated, though that organization does not engage in routine public interest litigation over listed species.