Our Klamath Basin
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Rep. Richard W. Pombo (R-Calif.) says now
he wants to take it on bit by bit.
"I think it's just a lot easier and a lot
more practical to break it down," said Pombo,
chairman of the House Resources Committee.
His new approach worries
environmentalists, who say the 30-year-old law
never has been in more jeopardy.
"It's the death-of-a-thousand-cuts
approach," said Bart Semcer, a fish and wildlife
policy specialist for the Sierra Club. "They
know that they can't win by adopting a wholesale
approach to attacking the Endangered Species
Act, so they're launching sneak attacks, small
pieces of legislation that they're hoping the
public won't notice in order to undermine the
Pombo, who contends environmental
regulations too often infringe on the rights of
farmers and homeowners, said the endangered
species law produces more lawsuits and property
disputes than it provides protection for
wildlife. It is a point he has argued since he
was handed the task of rewriting the law in
That effort never made it to the House
floor. Subsequent attempts also went nowhere.
Pombo was tapped last year over more
senior Republicans to chair the Resources
Committee. After spending most of his first year
in the job on other initiatives such as the new
timber-cutting law, he is ready to return his
focus to endangered species.
"We've been arguing over this for 10 years
and haven't made any progress whatsoever. So I
think that it's worth a shot," Pombo said.
Most Democrats are just as determined to
protect the law. "That's going to be a big test,
there's no question about it," said Rep. Nick J.
Rahall II (W.Va.), the committee's senior
Rahall said he hopes moderate Republicans
will join him, too. "I think we can build an
effective coalition that will block any
wholesale revamping of the law itself," Rahall
said. The Endangered Species Act requires the
government to use "the best scientific and
commercial data available" in choosing animals
and plants to list. Listed species are supposed
to be protected from potentially harmful
activities. More than 1,200 plants and animals
are listed as threatened or endangered. Pombo
said his first focus will be to add what he and
the law's critics call "sound science"
provisions. He says the requirement for the best
available data is too vague; he wants the law to
demand empirical or peer-reviewed standards.
Next, he wants to tackle how critical
habitats are designated.
One by one, Pombo's critics maintain, the
elements add up to changing the entire
Endangered Species Act.
"For Richard Pombo, it's about grinding
things to a halt," said Betsy Loyless, vice
president for policy of the League of
Conservation Voters. "And that's a harder
process for environmentalists to point to."