Published July 21, 2004
The Endangered Species Acts opponents admit that the American public wont stand for the outright repeal of the law that saved the bald eagle. So instead they have chosen to assault the law piecemeal. They hope that the American public will be less likely to notice a death of a thousand cuts than a full blown lunge for the Endangered Species Acts jugular.
Todays action in the House Resources Committee represents a major stab at the Endangered Species Act. Sadly, the committees passage of HR-2933 and HR-1662 could leave Americas most imperiled wildlife bleeding.
The Critical Habitat Reform Act (HR-2933) effectively guts the habitat provision of the Endangered Species Act. The bill creates loopholes that make the designation of critical habitat the places species need for recovery optional rather than mandatory, as the Act currently requires. The bill allows agencies to shirk the responsibility of designating critical habitat and removes deadlines for doing so.
HR-2933 attacks the very notion that habitat conservation is important to protecting imperiled wildlife. This not only contradicts science, but also defies common sense. All living things need a home. Now the House Resources Committee is telling us that protecting the homes of some of the most endangered species on the planet should be optional. This is bad policy and a tragic weakening of the Endangered Species Act, a law that has saved many species from extinction.
The Sound Science in Endangered Species Planning Act (HR-1662) cynically attempts to delay and obstruct the effective protection of species in the name of science. In fact, the Endangered Species Act, as currently written, already provides for extensive scientific review. HR-1662 attempts to take certain scientific tools, like statistical modeling, out of the scientists toolbox. It leaves important science-related decisions in the hands of political appointees. It puts up hurdles designed to delay the process of implementing species protection.
HR-1662 should be called the unsound science bill.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service must be able to use the best available science to protect endangered wildlife. It must be able to protect critical habitat. These bills will prevent the agency from doing so.
Over 400 eminent scientists from across the country have objected to the passage of todays bills on the grounds that they will harm the cause of species conservation in the United States.
If the Endangered Species Act is to continue protecting imperiled wildlife for future generations, the House of Representatives must vote to defeat these two misguided bills. It must not choose to bleed the life out of the Endangered Species Act when there are so many species still in need of protection.
Protecting wildlife through education and action since 1936, the National Wildlife Federation is America's conservation organization, creating solutions that balance the needs of people and wildlife now and for future generations.