Time to make ESA reform high
priority, Capital Press 3/12/07
Thompson launches species
recovery bill, The Times-Standard
Farmers and ranchers have a lot of friends
these days. Now that the Bush administration has
laid its proposal for a new farm bill on the table
in Washington, D.C., many members of Congress have
sponsored hearings, forums and meetings on the
Folks like Washington Sen. Patty Murray of
Seattle, California Rep. Sam Farr of Salinas and
Portland Rep. Earl Blumenauer have had hearings on
the proposal. The reason for these hearings, they
say, is to hear what agriculture wants and needs
in the new farm bill.
If Congress wants to help farmers and ranchers,
why wait for the new farm bill? Why not fix a law
that has created an egregious burden on farmers
and ranchers around the nation? Why not address a
serious problem now instead of waiting for this
summer's debate on the new farm bill?
The Endangered Species Act has been called many
things, most of which cannot be printed in a
family newspaper. It has been an anvil around the
neck of farmers and ranchers for more than 30
years, since President Richard Nixon signed it
into law. It alone created the 2001 Klamath Falls
water crisis and has squandered billions of tax
More than anything else, it is ineffective. In the
past three decades, of about 1,300 species listed
as endangered or threatened, only 19 have been
taken off the endangered species list, according
to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Nine of these
species went extinct.
Yet Congress, with the exception of a few brave
members, has been unwilling to repair this law.
Here's why. The ESA has been elevated to
scriptural status by environmental groups and
others who use it to stop activities of which they
disapprove. This includes building and maintaining
much-needed hydroelectric dams and using some
pesticides that improve productivity and prevent
the spread of insects and diseases that damage the
environment. It also includes activities as
innocent as grazing cattle.
Using this law as a blunt legal instrument, these
groups try to force farmers and ranchers from the
land by declaring land and streams to be critical
habitat for birds, fish and even butterflies.
Last year, several members of the U.S. House
offered a modest proposal to improve the ESA. It
would have helped create cooperative efforts
between federal agencies and farmers and ranchers
to protect and help bring endangered species back
from the brink of extinction.
The House bill would also call for peer review of
scientific findings so that temporary conditions
are not misinterpreted. Peer review is a common
practice in the scientific community, yet it is
feared in the political community because it may
counter the goals of some special interest groups.
Even that modest proposal created casualties.
Environmentalists targeted U.S. Rep. Richard
Pombo, a California Republican and chairman of the
House Resources Committee, during last fall's
general election. He was the only one of 19
Republican committee chairman to lose his bid for
Because of the political risks involved in
reforming the ESA, Oregon Rep. Greg Walden, who
co-sponsored the legislation, predicted the bill
is "road kill" in the Democratic House.
Some in the Senate, however, have not given up
hope. Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, last week
introduced the Endangered Species Recovery Act.
The bill would make landowners eligible for tax
credits if they own habitat or incur costs to
recover species and are a party to a recovery
agreement with a federal agency.
Co-sponsors include both Republicans and
Democrats, including heavy hitters such as Senate
Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada and Finance
Committee Chairman Max Baucus of Montana, but the
bill is likely to encounter heavy opposition in
the Democrat-dominated Senate.
If they really want to help farmers and ranchers,
the self-described friends of agriculture holding
the farm bill hearings should first apply more
urgency and support to finally fix the Endangered
Thompson launches species recovery bill
The Times-Standard 03/09/2007
Reps. Mike Thompson, D-St. Helena, and Don Young,
R-Alaska, Thursday introduced the Endangered
Species Recovery Act, which would provide
landowners with tax incentives if they agree to
implement species recovery plans.
”Americans have always loved the great outdoors
for our country's diversity of fish and wildlife,”
said Thompson. “We should do everything we can to
provide incentives to landowners to help recover
our endangered and threatened species. This bill
will help the government create positive
partnerships with landowners to implement
effective recovery plans nationwide.”
To qualify for the tax incentives, landowners must
demonstrate that animals listed as endangered or
threatened live or migrate through their property.
The landowner also must implement a
government-approved recovery plan designed to
reverse the decline of the listed species.
”For too long, private property owners have
suffered under the Endangered Species Act,” said
Young. “An overwhelming majority of these owners
are strong conservationists who want to help in
the recovery of species but they have been the
victims of the restrictions mandated by the
original law. This is a fair bill that works in
the best interests of landowners and our
threatened and endangered species. It's truly a
bi-partisan, multi-interest bill that will help
attain our goals of treating property owners
fairly and safeguarding species that need their
land for their recovery.” Landowners can qualify
under the Endangered Species Recovery Act by
agreeing to implement land management practices
that coincide with pre-approved species recovery
plans. The agreements must include a schedule,
deadline and monitoring system.
Sens. Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Mike Crapo,
D-Idaho, introduced companion legislation in the
Senate last week.
The Endangered Species Recovery Act has been
endorsed by dozens of wildlife conservation and
sporting organizations, including the American
Sportfishing Association, Ducks Unlimited, Trout
Unlimited, Environmental Defense, National
Wildlife Federation, Defenders of Wildlife,
Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership and
the National Endangered Species Act Reform
Coalition. The American Farm Bureau also supports