Daily News Archives
Poised to Rewrite the Endangered Species Act
(Beyond Pesticides, May 25, 2004) U.S. Representative
Richard Pombo (R-CA) issued a new report last week condemning the Endangered
Species Act (ESA).
Environmentalists and Democrats were quick to label the report inaccurate,
poorly researched and ill-informed. A new bill, based on the report
and likely to propose sweeping revisions to the Act including measures
that make it harder to list a threatened species, is soon expected by
the environmental community.
“The Endangered Species Act is a proven safety net for America’s
imperiled plants and animals,” said Susan Holmes of Earthjustice.
“This report is a recipe for undoing 30 years of progress and
driving scores of species to extinction.”
The report entitled, "Implementation
of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973," criticizes the
Act by claiming that it has failed to recover more than one percent
of the listed species and that very few are meeting their recovery objectives.
Environmental groups point out that the Act’s success cannot be
measured simply by looking at recovery rates. Threatened or endangered
populations of species can take several decades to replenish and many
of the roughly 1800 species were added within the last 15 years.
The report also claimed 60 percent of endangered species are uncertain
or declining, 30 percent are stable, and only 6 percent are improving.
In a formal
rebuttal to some of the main points of Rep. Pombo’s report,
environmentalists explain that ESA data actually show 68 percent of
species with a known trend to either stabilize or improve within six
years of being listed. They also point to peer-reviewed scientific studies
that show the ESA is working.
The report arrives against the backdrop of recent political maneuvering
of the White House and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
to implement “counterpart regulations” that leave listed
species more open to harm from pesticides and a lawsuit
won by Earthjustice and Washington Toxics Coalition against EPA to implement
the ESA and protect endangered salmon from pesticides in the Northwest.
(See Daily News on counterpart regulations
Rep. Pombo sits
on the House Committee on Agriculture, a committee notorious for protecting
the use of pesticides at almost any cost. He is also Chairman of the
House Resources Committee that oversees the ESA and other environmental
GOP lawmakers are looking to amend the Act by adding incentives for
landowners and private developers as well as to “strengthen scientific
reviews,” according to The
Associated Press. Among the report’s recommendations are better
use of science consistent with The Data Quality Act (see Daily
News), delisting species that are ‘possibly extinct’
and making it easier to delist species.
The ESA has remained
largely intact since its inception in 1973, despite three amendments
made through the years by Congress. The Act has an history of being
contentious. Private developers complain that the Act interferes with
business while environmentalists complain the Act should do more to
protect wildlife and habitat. While attempts to “reform”
ESA have been made before, the difference this time may be the heavy
representation of business interests overshadowing both houses in Congress
and the White House that would like to see the Act weakened. According
to the Washington Post
there is considerable agreement between Democrats and Republicans on
easing constraints on private development.
“The mischaracterizations in this report are further proof that
developers, and the politicians they give money to, are trying to weaken
the Endangered Species Act, the law that prevented the extinction of
the American Bald Eagle," said Liz Godfrey, Program Director for
Species Coalition. "They are manipulating science to fit their
political agenda, and working to remove the checks and balances that
help protect people from special interests."
Many worry that should the ESA be opened before this Congress, it would
quickly get filled with amendments that benefit powerful lobbies rather
than wildlife. ESA protected habitat has further come under attack by
a bill introduced by Rep. Dennis Cardoza ("Critical
Habitat Reform Act of 2005" H.R. 1299), which is also being
fought by environmentalists trying to prevent the creation of loopholes
that would remove most habitat protections and make the designation
of critical habitat voluntary rather than mandatory.
The potential result
of rewriting ESA today would be the loss of the fundamental principles
that created the Act – to leave behind a legacy of good land stewardship
and protected species and habitat for the children and grandchildren
of the future.
Rep. Pombo's report is available through http://resourcescommittee.house.gov/
ACTION: Tell your U.S.
Senators and Representative
to protect endangered species and leave ESA off the agenda! Use this
(adapted from Endangered Species Coalition).