Panel eyes endangered species, fishing bills

House lawmakers will begin mulling new legislation to reform the Endangered Species Act and reauthorize the country's fishing management law in coming weeks.

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The chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), announced on Thursday that lawmakers next week would release a draft version of a bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act, which governs the country’s marine fisheries, and advance “common-sense” reforms to the Endangered Species Act early next year. In January, the committee will also hold a hearing on the fishing reauthorization law, Hastings added.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (Ore.), the top Democrat on the committee, said that members of his party “haven’t seen” the new fishing management bill.

“I’m hopeful that before it’s released to the general public that we might be able to look at it,” he said.

DeFazio added that a reauthorization of the law could be bipartisan and “doesn’t need to be contentious.”

The Magnuson-Stevens Act expired at the end of fiscal 2013. 

DeFazio also said that the Endangered Species Act could be updated to ensure that the conservation methods of individual species added to the list did not conflict with each other.

“I'm hopeful that, in a collaborative way, we can look at some reforms that will make the act work better to achieve the goals that were set forth 40 years ago,” DeFazio said. “It is a 40-year-old law and we do need to recognize more modern science and approaches to accomplish those goals.”

Hastings also told the House committee on Thursday, during its final hearing of the year, that lawmakers would begin work to establish a wilderness area in Michigan and pass a new public lands law when Congress returned after the holiday recess. 

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