Pombo fires back at critics report on species
Thursday, Apr 28, 2005 - 06:51:36 am PDT
Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy, is sparring with
environmentalists again, this time over a report
he asked the federal government's General
Accounting Office for on the Endangered Species
The 47-page GAO report came out Tuesday and was
prepared in response to a request Pombo filed
around a year ago. It's designed to evaluate the
spending decisions that the Fish and Wildlife
Service has made in trying to support the ESA.
Shortly after the report came out, Pombo's
office at the House Resources Committee, which he
chairs, put out a press release with the headline,
"GAO Endangered Species Report: Little Reason to
Expect Poor Recovery Record to Improve."
In this release, Pombo's office asserted that the
report vindicated many of the statements he had
been making about the ESA.
Pombo's release noted that "not a single animal
with the highest recovery priority was among the
20 species receiving the most FWS recovery
dollars" and that 92 percent of endangered species
were listed in the top half of the priority
"If everything is a priority, then nothing is,"
said Brian Kennedy, press secretary for Pombo on
the resources committee.
Pombo critics immediately jumped on the release.
On Wednesday, the Center for Biological Diversity
issued its own release, claiming that Pombo's
office misinterpreted and twisted the report's
"These are just Pombo's stock attacks on the
ESA, and he's trying to put words in the mouth of
the GAO," said Kieran Suckling, policy director
for the center. "He has a long history of lying
about the Endangered Species Act."
The center's statement brought up numerous issues
with Pombo's release. For one thing, it said
funding for different species is based not only on
the level of threat but the amount of habitat, the
types of threats and the measures needed to
Priority was also given to species that were
judged to have a higher chance of recovery.
"All you need to conclude that the Endangered
Species Act has a poor recovery record is to look
at the information posted on the Fish and Wildlife
Web site," countered Kennedy. "You can disagree
with the chairman's interpretation of the data,
but to accuse him of lying is ridiculous and
Much of the crux of Pombo's critique of the ESA
has hinged on his contention that it has failed
because few species have recovered to the point
where they can be taken off the endangered list.
While representatives of the GAO did not return
calls for comment, the report's introduction
states: "The purpose of the act is to conserve
endangered and threatened species ... funding
availability to recover species is only a small
fraction of what federal scientists believe is
Kennedy said that Pombo would be among the first
to fight for greater funding once he has the
reforms he wants.
He went on to characterize Pombo's critics as a
small group of Bay Area environmentalists who
could generate press coverage in California but
were virtually ignored in Washington.
As an example, Kennedy cited Pombo's supposed
support for a bill to open up the U.S. coasts to
offshore oil drilling. While environmentalists are
fond of using this alleged bill as a scare tactic,
Kennedy said, it doesn't exist.
George Miller, D-Martinez, said that Pombo's
efforts to overhaul the ESA have gotten a lot of
attention in Washington, even if the stories have
sometimes been lost among the flurry of recent
coverage about Tom DeLay and Terri Schiavo.
"To suggest that no one in Congress disagrees with
him on this is false," Miller said. "He says that
the Endangered Species Act has been ineffective
while supporting a bill that prevents Fish and
Wildlife from using habitat for recovery."
The bill in question, The Critical Habitat
Enhancement Act (House Resolution 1299), was
proposed by another congressman from Northern
California, Dennis Cardoza, D-Merced. Pombo is not
a sponsor, but has voiced support for the bill.
According to Miller, it severely restricts which
lands can be classified as critical habitat.