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Senate staffers involved with changes to ESA visit Basin

H&N photos by Gary Thain
Christy Plumer, a staffer for U.S. Sen. Lincoln Chafee, a Rhode Island republican, said a Senate bill proposing change to the Endangered Species Act probably won’t be done until next year.

October 11, 2005


Three U.S. Senate staffers visited the Klamath Basin Sunday and Monday to get an on-the-ground understanding of the local impact of the Environmental Species Act.

The staffers work for Republican senators who could have a hand in changing the 32-year-old law - Sen. Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island, Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma and Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho.

A bill that would overhaul the law passed the U.S. House late last month and is now being reviewed by a Senate subcommittee chaired by Chafee.

Although the House bill passed about two weeks after it was introduced Sept. 19 by Rep. Richard Pombo, a California Republican, any legislation from the Senate could be months off.

”We feel there is a lot of work that needs to be done on the Senate side,“ said Christy Plumer, a staffer for Chafee on the Senate Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee.

She said Chafee wants to hear from stakeholders around the country about the impact of possible changes in the ESA, and the committee may not work on a bill until January.

The stakeholders will be from national groups and probably won't include someone from the Basin, Plumer said.

Pombo and U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, a Republican whose district includes Klamath and Lake counties, have been on crusades to change the ESA, but Chafee has been honored for supporting it.

In July, Chafee was honored with a framed photo of an endangered species from Rhode Island by wildlife advocates from around the nation, according to a press release on his Web site.

”The ESA is perhaps the most powerful and significant environmental legislation ever enacted in the U.S.,“ the press release says. ”Since 1973, it has been a safety net working to prevent the extinction of many endangered species, including the bald eagle, California condor and the gray whale.“

Pombo and Walden contend that the ESA isn't recovering species, and they say the bill passed by the House would remedy that by adding more scientific review and changing how the habitats of endangered species are handled.

Plumer said she came to the Klamath Basin, which she called the ”hotbed of where the ESA isn't working,“ to find out what in the House bill could work.

Greg Addington, executive director for the Klamath Water Users Association, said legislation aimed at changing environmental policy historically has a tougher battle in the Senate.

He said the water users want to see the ESA change.

A room full of stakeholders in Klamath water issues met with three U.S. Senate staffers Monday to talk about the Endangered Species Act.

”This thing is not recovering species,“ Addington said.

The water users association, which has 1,400 members, led Sunday's tour of the Klamath Reclamation Project and paid for the cookies, coffee and lunch for about 20 stakeholders, including farmers, fishermen and American Indian tribal members, who met with the staffers Monday at the Red Lion Inn.






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