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Is The Endangered Species Act Endangered?

Is The Endangered Species Act Endangered?

“I found one!” my son Will yelled to his fellow wildlife biologists. The group had been searching for tiger salamanders for the previous 15 days, excavating into the burrows known to be their habitat.

The local utility company, Pacific Gas and Electric, was proposing a huge development near Hollister, CA, but under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), they could not do so in an area known to be the habitat of an endangered species without being carefully monitored.

My son works for a company hired to carry out this monitoring; his job is to educate every worker on the site about what to look for, to seek out the endangered species and to take notes and report back to California Fish and Wildlife.

In this case, only one tiger salamander was found and as a holder of the special ESA permit, he was able to move the reptile.

40th Anniversary Of The Endangered Species Act

This month we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the ESA.

The Act was signed into law on December 28, 1973 by President Richard Nixon who, in one of his finer moments, declared:

“Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. It is a many-faceted treasure, of value to scholars, scientists and nature lovers alike, and it forms a vital part of the heritage we all share as Americans.”

In 40 years, the ESA has made a huge difference. Examples of its success in protecting species and their habitats are extensive: grey whales, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, gray wolves, Florida manatees, American alligators, grizzly bears and black-footed ferrets have all been rescued from the brink of extinction.

Last year, the Center for Biological Diversity published a groundbreaking report, On Time, On Target: How the Endangered Species Act Is Saving America’s Wildlife, which provides an in-depth look at 110 protected species from all 50 states. They found that 90 percent of the studied species are recovering right on time to meet recovery goals set by federal scientists.

You can check out species in your area on this interactive regional map of the 110 species.

One of the downsides of the ESA is that it takes an average of two years for a species to be listed, which is plenty of time for a developer to create a whole new shopping mall or housing complex.

But this is minor compared to the opposition to the Act that is vocal now.

Is The Endangered Species Act Endangered?

Although we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the ESA, the celebration is overshadowed by a new bill in Congress that threatens its very survival.

In 1973, the ESA passed Congress in the House by 355 to four, and in the Senate by 92 to 0. There was such overwhelming support because people understood it provided balance in the natural world.

How things have changed in 2013.

U.S. Senate Bill 1731, Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, is sponsored by the ESA’s political foes and backed by special-interest groups more interested in making as much money as possible than in preserving our nation’s wildlife.

Tea Party Senators Rand Paul, Mike Lee and Dean Heller introduced this bill last month; if passed, it would gut the ESA and end protections for most of the species currently listed, make it harder to list new species and require that every five years threatened and endangered species are kicked off the list, until Congress passes a joint resolution renewing their protection for another five years, at which point they would be kicked off again.

In other words, this bill would essentially dismantle the Endangered Species Act, which was designed specifically to protect otherwise defenseless animals from humans.

This is just the latest in a series of attacks on the ESA by lawmakers who seem quickly willing to undermine the ESA, which they falsely claim is burdensome and an intrusive federal overreach.

Speak Up Now

The Endangered Species Act has prevented the extinction of 99 percent of the more than 1,500 plants and animals it protects, while putting hundreds on the road to recovery.

America’s wild places and wild creatures are essential to our national heritage and our national soul. If America’s endangered wildlife is to be preserved, we must all call or write our congressional representatives and sign the petition to voice our opposition to U.S. Senate Bill 1973.

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Photo Credit: USFWSEndangeredSpecies

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141 comments

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9:27AM PST on Jan 13, 2014

And that my friend, would be a disaster for the environment, the animals, and ultimately, humans.

6:57PM PST on Jan 4, 2014

Kelvin, and exactly why, in your scientific opinion, does the Endangered Species Act need "mending"? When the ESA protects 99% of the species it protects, nobody is entitled to throw a wrench into it. It's only corporate criminals and the criminals in Congress who would want to water down a successful wildlife or environment protection program for their unethical greasy profits. Hands off the Endangered Species Act.

6:01PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

I support the ESA. It has it flaws and I think it definitely needs a review and some mending, I don't know that this is the right way to do it... Unfortunately, there isn't very much information in this article, nor the ones referenced...

5:34PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

Salamanders are amphibians...

2:19PM PST on Jan 1, 2014

happy new year to all living beings on earth

7:45PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Text of S 1731” Congress finds that—
(1) the ESA was passed in 1973 as a means of protecting and recovering species and has not been substantially revised in over 25 years;
(2) the ESA has not achieved its stated goal of recovering threatened species or endangered species;
(3) of the species listed in accordance with the ESA, less than 1 percent of the total number of species in the United States have been recovered and removed from the list, largely due to data errors or other factors;
(4) there is—
(A) no comprehensive independent study of the costs or benefits of the ESA;
(B) no full accounting of how much the Federal Government and State and local governments spend to implement, enforce, and comply with the ESA; and
(C) no meaningful effort to account for the costs the ESA imposes on the private sector;
(5) the ESA effectively penalizes landowners for owning endangered species habitat by forcing them to bear the cost of conservation;
(6) the regulatory listing process under the ESA has become a tool for environmentalists to undermine, slow down, or halt construction of infrastructure projects, hampering economic growth and employment; and
(7) litigation stemming from the ESA and some resulting settlements between the litigants and the Federal Government have made the ESA even more unworkable, to the detriment of species.

3:25PM PST on Dec 31, 2013

A crackpot piece of legislation not likely to pass the Senate this year. Watch out for next year, though.

One good thing about the 2/3 majority Congressional world we live in, is that it's difficult to gut old legislation. Even if party balance shifts in the Senate, crazy unscientific bills like this can still be filibustered. Ain't democracy grand?

But seriously, even high school students who have passed American Govt. know that 5-year reviews do not have the same public mandate as a Federal Act. These kinds of bills are more reminiscent of '5-year plans' enforced by totalitarian states like Stalin's Russia or Mao's China or today's N. Korea. Why is the Tea Party resorting to Communist-style legislation to appease a vocal minority of anti-science and anti-wildlife interests? Could it be intellectual or moral bankruptcy, perish the thought?

10:13AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

TYFS

7:30AM PST on Dec 31, 2013

Once again, you've got to hand it to Republicans for being masters of the Big Lie. Calling this the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act sounds so benign and wonderful - as though those nice Repubs just want to let the wolves and manatees decide their own future.

This is just like the Clear Skies Act introduced by Pres Bush. Sounds so positive doesn't it? Who doesn't want Clear Skies? Too bad the primary goal of the Clear Skies initiative was to gut parts of the Clean Air Act.

8:27PM PST on Dec 30, 2013

If it is up to humanity, the endangered species act will be revoked. We are more interested in killing for money than saving lives for the future.

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Julie M. Rodriguez Julie M. Rodriguez is an arts, green living, and political writer based in San Mateo, CA. Her work... more
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