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Adjusting the ESA

Groups back species act reformation

by ELON GLUCKLICH, Herald and News 6/16/11
Some Klamath County political groups say the Endangered Species Act is being used to push environmental agendas and cripple economic growth.

The K lamath County Republican Central Committee is a mong loca l orga n izations push i ng to change the federal act designed to protect habitats of animals and plants. In March, the committee formally passed a resolution in favor of modifying the ESA.

Jeff Woodwick, the committee’s chairman, said the ESA has had an adverse impact on the Klamath Basin economy, choking off economic opportunities in sectors like timber production and agriculture.

“We felt strongly that this is something that has to be done for the benefit of our economy,” Woodwick said.

Exactly what that modification might look like isn’t clear, but Woodwick said it would likely include taking regional and economic considerations into account when implementing ESA provisions to make sure rural communities aren’t disproportionately impacted.

“I would say (the ESA) has affected us more than other areas of the country, because we’re a rural, resource com munity,” Woodwick said.

Among groups endorsing ESA modification is the Klamath County Patriots Tea Party organization.

Spokesman Jack Charlton called the ESA “well intended in its beg inning.” But he added “there are portions of it that are very intrusive to what the Pacific Northwest needs to maintain its income viability.”

Charlton pointed to the situation with the shortnose sucker and spotted owl, which went on the endangered species list in 1988 and 1990, respectively. They’ve contributed to declining timber production and water shortages for irrigators in the Klamath Basin, Charlton said, resulting in massive job and productivity losses.

“I don’t think anybody that is of sane and sound mind wants to hurt our ecosystem,” he said. “But there’s a point where you get ludicrous about it.”

Raising the issue

Woodwicks aid he’s taken the groups’ concerns to the office of U.S. Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore. Walden spokesman Andrew Whelan said Walden shares their concerns.

“Rep. Walden has long been a supporter of reforming and modernizing the ESA,” Whelan said. “He certainly supports removing barriers to job creation in natural resources.”

Woodw ick sa id even some members of the local Democratic Party have been willing to listen to reform efforts.

But Liz Schmitt, treasurer for the Klamath County Democrats, said “there’s a big difference between listening and agreeing.”

The issues related to the ESA “are not simple problems, they’re very complicated and they have domino effects,” Schmitt said, adding removing protections on species like spotted owls or suckers could have widespread ecological impacts.

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