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Committee to "Gut" and "Rollback" Endangered Species Act Tomorrow
July 20, 2004 by Brian Kennedy

Sounds ridiculous, doesn't it? 

But absent intelligent debate, this is the kind of lazy, vacuous rhetoric many so-called environmentalists will undoubtedly spew when asked about the Endangered Species Act (ESA) legislation before the House Resources Committee.  (In fairness, some of the more fashionable have also begun to use the term "eviscerate")

For the sake of comity - or comedy - the following is a brief analysis of the law the committee seeks to "rollback" and the legislation it will use to do the "gutting."

The Endangered Species Act (ESA): Signed into law 30 years ago by President Nixon, the ESA was intended to conserve and recover species identified as threatened or endangered to healthy populations.  The mechanics of the ESA have not been updated since.

      After thirty years, the law has recovered 12 of 1300 listed species, for a cumulative success rate of .01% (or a 99.99% rate of failure), even under the Fish and Wildlife Service's own, optimistic reading.  Nine species have gone extinct.  More than a dozen were listed due to data errors and subsequently removed.  *FWS data*

      Critical habitat, one of the chief tools in the current ESA toolbox, has been described by both Republican and Democrat administrations as a "biological disaster" that "contributes little, if anything, to species recovery."  But due to floods of environmental lawsuits, critical habitat is what consumes the majority of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service resources.

      Poor decision-making, caused by inadequate data, has created an adversarial relationship between government regulators and the people who are most critical to the goal of saving endangered species: America's farmers, ranchers, Native Americans, and private property owners - the people who own the habitat.  More than 90% of endangered species have habitat on private land, but research shows that the ESA has created a regulatory atmosphere that prompts land owners to actually destroy species habitat to rid their property of the government regulations that come with endangered species.

The "Gutting":  Tomorrow the committee will consider two ESA "rollback" bills.

I.                   H.R. 2933, the Critical Habitat Reform Act, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)

The Cardoza legislation adjusts the arbitrary and now-untenable deadline under which the FWS is required to designate critical habitat (the tool the agency must use, despite the fact that its experts deem it useless to species recovery).  This will also limit the frivolous litigation filed by ESA ambulance chasers - who make a living off of the current broken system - and force our biologists out of the field and into the courthouse.

The bill corrects the dysfunctional critical habitat designation process, linking it to the species recovery planning process, and integrating the data accumulated in that process.  The result will be a greater focus on species recovery under the Act and improvement of the abysmal .01% success rate.

II.                H.R. 1662, the Sound Science for ESA Planning Act, sponsored by Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR)

The Walden legislation would strengthen the scientific foundation of species recovery efforts by integrating a peer-review tool into ESA decision-making processes.  Unlike laws such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and a host of laws that affect the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Education, and the Department of Labor, and the Department of Commerce (to name a few), the ESA currently has NO peer review requirement.  Peer review is a standard scientific safeguard, but has somehow never been integrated into Washington's solution for recovering endangered species.

Query:  How does the application of a basic scientific tool - peer review - "gut" the Act?  How do guidelines that make a dysfunctional conservation tool functional "rollback" the Act?  How does one defend the .01 percent success in status quo and refuse to accept any effort to increase results for recovery?

The Resources Committee is working to "gut" the status quo and "rollback" the real-world record of the ESA: no results in recovery, never-ending lawsuits, conflicts and hardships, and ever-expanding bureaucracy.

When:  Tomorrow, July 21, 2004 @ 10:00 A.M.

Where:  1324 Longworth H.O.B.


Listen to the markup online at http://resourcescommittee.house.gov

# # #

Brian J. Kennedy

Communications Director

Committee on Resources

Chairman Richard W. Pombo

(202) 226-9019





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