Cloudy
38°
Cloudy
Hi 47° | Lo 29°

Changes sought for endangered species act

  • Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., center, discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol in Washington. Hastings, along with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., left, led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., center, discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol in Washington. Hastings, along with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., left, led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • FILE - In this undated photo released by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a bald eagle files in Utah. Proponents credit the Endangered Species Act with staving off extinction for hundreds of species, from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale, but Republicans in Congress say the 40-year-old law meant to protect animals and plants from extinction has become bogged down by litigation and needs to be updated. (AP Photo/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Lynn Chamberlain)

    FILE - In this undated photo released by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a bald eagle files in Utah. Proponents credit the Endangered Species Act with staving off extinction for hundreds of species, from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale, but Republicans in Congress say the 40-year-old law meant to protect animals and plants from extinction has become bogged down by litigation and needs to be updated. (AP Photo/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Lynn Chamberlain)

  • Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash. discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hastings led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

    Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash. discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hastings led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

  • Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash., center, discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol in Washington. Hastings, along with Rep. Cynthia Lummis, R-Wyo., left, led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
  • FILE - In this undated photo released by the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, a bald eagle files in Utah. Proponents credit the Endangered Species Act with staving off extinction for hundreds of species, from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale, but Republicans in Congress say the 40-year-old law meant to protect animals and plants from extinction has become bogged down by litigation and needs to be updated. (AP Photo/Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, Lynn Chamberlain)
  • Rep. Norman "Doc" Hastings, R-Wash. discusses a new report that proposes alterations to the 40-year-old Endangered Species Act, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Hastings led the Endangered Species Act Congressional Working Group, a panel of House Republicans who want the law to be administered by the states to balance wildlife protection with economic development. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Republicans in Congress yesterday called for an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act to curtail environmentalists’ lawsuits and give more power to states, but experts say broad changes to one of the nation’s cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington, D.C.

A group of 13 GOP lawmakers representing states across the United States released a report proposing “targeted reforms” for the 40-year-old federal law, which protects imperiled plants and animals.

Proponents credit the law with staving off extinction for hundreds of species – from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale. But critics contend the law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.

Led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, the Republicans want to amend the law to limit litigation from wildlife advocates that has resulted in protections for some species. And they want to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders.

Also among the recommendations are increased scientific transparency, more accurate economic impact studies and safeguards for private landowners.

“The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species,” said Hastings. “The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species as endangered or threatened) than to delist.”

Signed into law by President Richard Nixon in December 1973, the act has resulted in additional protections for more than 1,500 plants, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Republicans have seized on the fact that only 2 percent of protected species have been declared recovered – despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending.

Noah Greenwald, a wildlife advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, disputed the 2 percent figure as a “gross manipulation of facts” that ignores the hundreds of protected species now on the path to recovery.

The political hurdles for an overhaul of the law are considerable. The Endangered Species Act enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.

Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, suggested yesterday that Republicans appeared intent on gutting the law. He predicted the changes being sought would go nowhere in the Senate.

“There is no appetite to overturn the (Endangered Species Act),” DeFazio said.

Federal wildlife officials said they would not comment on yesterday’s report until they have a chance to review it.

Throughout its history, the law has faced criticism from business interests, Republicans and others. They argue actions taken to shield at-risk species such as the northern spotted owl have severely hampered logging and other economic development.

Those complaints grew louder in recent months after federal wildlife officials agreed to consider protections for more than 250 additional species under settlement terms in lawsuits brought by environmental groups.

Included in the settlement was the greater sage grouse, a chicken-sized bird that has been in decline across large portions of its 11-state Western range. A final decision on whether to protect sage grouse is due next year and could result in wide-ranging restrictions on oil and gas development, agriculture and other economic activity.

The endangered act was last amended in the 1980s. Given the current level of rancor between Democrats and Republicans, academics who track the law were skeptical that the latest calls for change would succeed.

“Both sides have enough power to prevent something happening that they don’t like. But nobody has enough power to pass anything,” said Dale Goble, an expert on the act who works as a law professor at the University of Idaho.

Goble added that the main reason some species linger for decades on the endangered list is a shortage of federal money to help pay for their recovery.

Vanderbilt Law School professor J.B. Ruhl said previous attempts to reform the Endangered Species Act in the 1990s and again last decade failed. Regardless of the merits of the latest proposal, Ruhl said the topic remains a “third rail” many politicians are unwilling to touch.

Why is it that republican representation is intent on ruining our natural world, all for the sake of corporate interest? I say leave the Endangered Species Act alone, or better yet, add to it before we humans become endangered!

Evidently, giggles, you don't own any property. Property rights used to be worth something. Not all property is owned by "corporate interests." Farmers, small business people and individuals have had their property rendered useless because some obscure critter or plant was found there. When the government tells an owner that nothing can be done on or to their property, that is a taking, and the owner should be compensated for it.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.