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Recovery Act offers viable alternative to Endangered Species bill
Rep. Mary Bono
Special to The Desert Sun
October 30, 2005
Sometimes the old saying about "good intentions" has some truth to it. In the case of the Endangered Species Act, the good intentions were to save species on the road to extinction. Unfortunately, the act has not lived up to its original intent, as nearly 99 percent of the endangered species listed under the act remain at risk. Not only has the act failed to protect species from extinction, it has had the unintended consequence of depriving property owners use of their property and created severe economic hardships for local governments.
Part of the problem is that the act, while admirable in intent, has created confusion and conflict. After more than three decades, it is clear that in its current form the act simply does not work.
In an effort to update, improve and add much needed flexibility to the act, the House of Representatives earlier this month passed the Threatened Species Recovery Act of 2005 ("Endangered Species Act threatened," Oct. 1). The Species Recovery Act works to solve long-standing problems of the Endangered Species Act, problems that often led to lengthy litigation and a lack of cooperation between private property owners, government and well-intentioned environmentalists.
The sad facts
From my work on the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto National Monument designation, I have learned firsthand the great importance of public/private cooperation in the preservation and protection of our natural habitat and threatened species. Unfortunately, the Endangered Species Act created an adversarial relationship between government regulators and the people who are most essential to the actual protection of endangered species - our nation's farmers, ranchers, environmentalists and private-property owners.
As a result, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, less than 1 percent of the roughly 1,300 species listed have recovered. In addition, 21 percent of all listed species are "declining," 39 percent are classified "unknown" and, sadly, 3 percent are believed to be extinct. Only 6 percent of all listed species are classified as "improving."
Whether you are talking about protecting species that are well known, such as the peninsular bighorn sheep, or lesser known species such as the desert fairy shrimp, reform of the Endangered Species Act is of critical importance, especially to the Inland Empire and Coachella Valley. Our region has been disproportionately affected in both an economic and private property-rights sense despite the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service maintaining an official position that designating critical habitat alone contributes very little to protecting threatened species.
The Species Recovery Act offers an improved approach to recovery by establishing recovery teams and recovery tools. Within two years of a species being listed, recovery plans will be required by law and will be reviewed regularly to make sure they are as effective as possible. The plans will require the identification of lands important to the conservation and recovery of the listed species.
Under the Species Recovery Act, recovery teams will be comprised of those who have the essential knowledge and skills to guide effective recovery efforts. In addition, teams will include individuals who have property or livelihoods that would be critical to species preservation, a necessary component for any recovery program to succeed.
The legislation also lays the groundwork for successful implementation of the Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plans, intended to protect a wide range of species by codifying the "no surprises" clause. Without this addition, many groups were concerned that multiple species habitat plans could not live up to their promises.
While not perfect, the Species Recovery Act
will foster important discussions to help
determine the most effective ways to protect and
recover endangered species and finally allow us to
base our decisions on sound science.
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