Bill Seeks to Prevent the Intentional Release of Endangered Species to Areas Outside Their Habitat

Having an endangered species living on a certain parcel of land can cause all sorts of federal entanglements for state officials. Now imagine what could happen if someone intentionally released an endangered species into an area where they don't already exist.

That's the thought behind SB 163 sponsored by Sen. Margaret Dayton, R-Orem. The legislation increases the criminal penalty for intentionally bringing an endangered species into an area where they don't already have a habitat to a felony.

"We have some very frustrating issues with endangered species and us not being able to control our own lands and the animals on those lands," Says Dayton. "Sometimes people accidentally bring these species where they're not supposed to be, but when they intentionally do it, it can cause a lot of problems."

Robin Cahoon with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources says the legislation is an effort to try and get out ahead of what could be a problem down the road.

"We're not saying this is happening, but there have been some concerns raised by officials in Arizona about this type of scenario happening," says Cahoon. "There are a number of species that, if they were collected and transported to a part of the state where they don't currently exist and put there with the intention of establishing a presence on the landscape, it would create problems for the state in a variety of ways."

Cahoon points out that these species could negatively impact land development.

"There may be species that are already native to those areas that new species might cause problems for. It might also have economic impacts. If we find a presence of a threatened or endangered species, it could negatively impact development."

Dayton says one of the biggest frustrations for her would be the effect an invasive endangered species would have on private property rights, and her legislation would make someone think twice about intentionally releasing them where they're not wanted.