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GOP Has Plan to Get Endangered Species Act Out of ‘Litigation Driven’ Mode

Report says only 2 percent of protected species have been recovered thanks to the law at a cost of billions of dollars.

by
Bill Straub

Bio

February 8, 2014 - 12:16 am
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WASHINGTON – A House Republican working group is recommending sweeping changes in the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, asserting that local interests are not being properly considered in the law’s implementation and that lawsuits carry excessive weight in its determinations.

While preserving species “is a laudable and worthy goal,” according to the report, “federal implementation of it, and seemingly never-ending litigation are creating increasing impediments towards reaching that goal.”

Rep. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), who led the 13-member panel with Rep. Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, said the law needs to be brought into the 21st century as a result of “tremendous conservation advances since 1973.”

“The American people have grown by leaps and bounds in their understanding of conservation, their willingness to conserve species,” Lummis said. “The ESA needs to grow with them. The ESA is stuck in a litigation driven model. This outdated model hinders the boots on the ground conservation we should be harnessing to actually recover endangered species, not just spout flowery rhetoric about the law in courtrooms.”

But environmental groups maintain the group’s conclusions are unacceptable. Jamie Rappaport Clark, president and CEO of Defenders of Wildlife, said the panel’s proposals will “cause more species to go extinct.”

“Conservation of our nation’s precious natural heritage and imperiled wildlife used to be a value embraced by Americans from coast to coast and across the political spectrum,” Clark said. “But more and more, members of Congress like Rep. Hastings seem to have abandoned those values and forgotten their responsibility as stewards of our natural resources.”

Clark said the package “is not credible conservation ‘reform’ — it’s an anti-environmental corporate wish list.”

Chris Tollefson, spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, responded that the agency will not comment on the House GOP report until wildlife officials have an opportunity to review its findings.

Conservatives have long sought changes in the Endangered Species Act, which they claim often serves as a drag on economic development. They point to instances involving species like the Northern Spotted Owl, listed as threatened under ESA in 1990, which led to a partial shutdown of timber harvesting activity in the Pacific Northwest to protect the bird’s habitat.

“Shortly following the listing, the federal government, through the Clinton Administration’s Northwest Forest Plan, administratively withdrew nearly 24 million acres of federal land – resulting in no access to nearly 85 percent of the area available for timber harvest – from active management and restricted harvest levels,” the report said. “As a result, over 400 lumber mills have closed across Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana and California, terminating over 35,000 direct jobs and countless more indirect jobs.”

But Hastings said the biggest problem with the Endangered Species Act is that it “is not recovering species.” The report said only 2 percent of protected species have been recovered at a cost of billions of dollars.

Environmentalist organizations, like the National Wildlife Federation, reject that claim, noting that species like the bald eagle, Florida panther, gray wolf, grizzly bear, peregrine falcon and red-cockaded woodpecker have all benefitted from the ESA.

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to provide for the “conservation, protection, restoration and propagation of threatened and endangered species of fish, wildlife, and plants, and for other purposes.”

The law authorizes federal agencies to list species as either threatened or endangered and requires them to use their authority to conserve listed species and protect their federally designated habitat.

Top Rated Comments   
Species go extinct every day. In many cases, they are species we do not even know exist. The idea we as a species are responsible for this, or worse yet that we can control it, is simply preposterous.

The fact is that once a species gets down to that status, it is probably irrevocably on the way out due to a lack of genetic diversity in the remaining population. Many of the large animals we think of, and are actively working to save, like rhinoceros and tigers, will likely not survive this century no matter what we do - and if we manage to preserve any, they will be as exhibits in a zoo under careful conditions.

But ESA was only envisioned by the public as a means to save cuddly koalas and majestic eagles and elephants. If the greenies had sold the law as a means for them to crush farmers to save kangaroo rats or darters that even experts cannot tell which species they belong to without a DNA test, at a cost of billions, it would never have passed.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The ESA has little to do with actual conservation and much to do with control of land and resources by leftist organizations. What is going on now in much of the west with regards to the sage grouse is an atrocity. It has "Agenda 21" written all over it.
I wish the Republicans luck changing this thing; the greens will never give up easily. They enjoy wielding so much power over the flyover country hicks.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but the threat of litigation is so darn lucrative!!!! The only thing environmental groups are expert at is blackmail, lawfare, and lobbying, the last of which explains why they are so good at the other two.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (9)
All Comments   (9)
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jackson@(not so)sharpton showed the eco freaks the way.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The sad thing about the endangered species act is it gives private land owners a huge incentive to destroy any potential habitat for endangered species. You can't just leave land wild. If he finds an endangered species on his land, the landowner has a strong incentive to shoot, shovel, and shut up.

http://archive.lewrockwell.com/orig4/reiland3.html

When I was in college someone discovered a patch of rural land in NE Kansas that appeared to be original prairie that somehow missed out on cultivation. On hearing this news, the landowner immediately plowed under every plant to prevent government from gaining control of his land.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I find it interesting that both sides are hurling rhetorical bombs, but neither side explains the details of what is proposed. What is actually being proposed and how would it change the current way the Act is enforced?

10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Species go extinct every day. In many cases, they are species we do not even know exist. The idea we as a species are responsible for this, or worse yet that we can control it, is simply preposterous.

The fact is that once a species gets down to that status, it is probably irrevocably on the way out due to a lack of genetic diversity in the remaining population. Many of the large animals we think of, and are actively working to save, like rhinoceros and tigers, will likely not survive this century no matter what we do - and if we manage to preserve any, they will be as exhibits in a zoo under careful conditions.

But ESA was only envisioned by the public as a means to save cuddly koalas and majestic eagles and elephants. If the greenies had sold the law as a means for them to crush farmers to save kangaroo rats or darters that even experts cannot tell which species they belong to without a DNA test, at a cost of billions, it would never have passed.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
I absolutely agree with the first and third paragraphs of this, but the second is highly counter-intuitive and therefore hard for me to swallow. As long as there is a male and female, the species can reproduce, correct? So it will, by definition, not go extinct.

Can you provide some links giving further details?
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
David, I don't have a link handy, but what he says is true. In a perfect environment, all you need is a breeding pair. In the wild, you need a lot more than that. There is always predation, disease, starvation, and accident to reduce the breeding population. You have to have enough to overcome that.

Then there's that genetic diversity thing. Too much inbreeding makes for too many dying offspring.

It also tends to generate Democrats, but that's another discussion...

;-)





10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
The ESA has little to do with actual conservation and much to do with control of land and resources by leftist organizations. What is going on now in much of the west with regards to the sage grouse is an atrocity. It has "Agenda 21" written all over it.
I wish the Republicans luck changing this thing; the greens will never give up easily. They enjoy wielding so much power over the flyover country hicks.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
It would also be useful to include more of a competing interest component to see what the cost of restrictions are to be weighed against benefit. The Central Valley in California has many farmers out of business and the cost will not only be their loss of income and ability to pay taxes but also our higher produce costs-all to advance the fortunes of a tiny fish. Surely there must be some way to assess the importance of each. Our family has always been environmentally aware but this thing, like so many others has had great success with no recognition of that success-only more and more dissatisfaction with the level of accomplishment. Taken to the greatest extreme we would have to do away with all human activity. It is certainly unhealthy for us to become self loathing which is a current position of the left everywhere all aimed toward our mere existence as humans.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah, but the threat of litigation is so darn lucrative!!!! The only thing environmental groups are expert at is blackmail, lawfare, and lobbying, the last of which explains why they are so good at the other two.
10 weeks ago
10 weeks ago Link To Comment
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