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Should Congress Unwind Provisions of the Endangered Species Act?

by Countable | 7.19.17

Republican leaders on the House Natural Resources Committee pushed through five bills that seek to change the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which has Democrats on the committee up in arms. The bills call for reviews of the economic cost of adding a name to the endangered species list, to not allow nonnative species to be listed as endangered species and caps attorney’s fees in endangered species cases, which opponents say would reduce public access to the courts.

"We know that the law has been incredibly effective- but despite all of these facts, a handful of Senators and Congressmen who have risen to positions of influence over ESA legislation are pushing the agenda of fringe, anti-government groups, corporate polluters and those who want the act to just go away," Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ) told reporters at the Capitol.

"These bills frankly are an embarrassment, they lack anything remotely resembling the broad bipartisan that has backed successful ESA legislation in the past. But the Republican House majority is hell-bent on pushing them through over our objections, your objections, on the false, false premise that ‘We’re reforming, we’re modernizing and we’re streamlining the act,’ Rep. Grijalva continued.

Supporters of these bills believe that the ESA, passed in 1973, has lost its focus and is suspect to being taken advantage of by environmentalist groups.

"If you step back from the five bills we’re talking about today, there’s a common theme. And that theme is that a small number of radical litigants are gaming the system at tax payer expense. And as a result, they’re wasting the scarce resources that we should be putting forth for species that are truly in need of protection and for on the ground conservation efforts," Kent Holsinger a lawyer and proponent of the proposed changes testified before the committee.

Supporters of the current ESA say it has kept 99 percent of its list of species alive and on a path to meeting their recovery goals. That point was echoed by wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin who says the ESA has led to the increase of bald eagles from 400 to 20,000.

"We’ve become complacent because we are reaping the rewards of the Endangered Species Act," Corwin testified. “The deer that forge through our property, the elk that now move through the great west, the wolves that howl in the Yellowstone ecosystem, this is now our reality. We have become complacent because we have seen recovery of species. But as quickly as it has come, it can just as quickly go away.”

Contact your representative and let them know your thoughts!

— Matt Laslo

(Photo credit: USFWS Mountain-Prairie via Flickr / Creative Commons )

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