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Endangered Species Act needs revising

It is easy to lose focus when embracing a cause. Even though the protection of vulnerable creatures seems to be a worthy one, the process used by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service does not actually consider the recovery of the species involved.

Hundreds of thousands of acres within Stanislaus County have been designated as critical habitat for vernal pools, California tiger salamanders and red-legged frogs, but there is no evidence to suggest that setting aside property (and personal property rights) will do anything toward saving these species. In fact, so far, no data have been offered that show these creatures actually live in the areas designated.

What we do know is that Stanislaus County has been tagged for 18 percent of California's total vernal pool critical habitat. The recent listing of the California tiger salamander as "threatened" will also include habitat designation. (In this case, it has been recommended that a radius between 1.1 to 2 miles beyond vernal pools be considered for designation due to breeding habits.) The cumulative impact of additional designations -- for example, the red-legged frog is being considered -- could be devastating.

When the Endangered Species Act was first approved, it was estimated that the act would protect approximately 100 species. We now have more than 1,300 species that have been listed.

There is apparently no end to the number of species that could be designated or the number of acres set aside as habitat, and there is no consideration for the potential economic impacts of such actions.

Stanislaus County is dependent upon a $6.6 billion ag-related economy ($1.4 billion directly from farms). Our assets of soil, water and climate are not duplicated anywhere else in the world. The Endangered Species Act has directed its target beyond trying to limit development and growth. It is now aimed directly at agriculture -- and our county's economy has become endangered itself.

We believe that our responsibility toward stewardship of natural resources must be leavened with common sense. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has made decisions that put obscure and relatively insignificant species ahead of the needs and interests of humans -- without providing a scientific basis that would at least offer evidence to suggest such a sacrifice would have some kind of positive result.

We appreciate the efforts of Merced Democrat Dennis Cardoza, Mariposa Republican George Radanovich and Tracy Republican Richard Pombo, who set aside their partisan differences to help support the economic well-being of the Central Valley by questioning the current process of designating critical habitat.

House Resolution 2933 is important legislation that will assure appropriate designation is based on sound science, focused on recovery of the species and will take economic feasibility into consideration.

Grover and Mayfield are Stanislaus County supervisors.

 


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