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Aug. 17, 2005 - 12:56 p.m.

Republicans in Both Chambers Preparing to Tackle Endangered Species Act

By Benton Ives-Halperin, CQ Staff 

A group of senators dominated by Western Republicans is taking aim at the Endangered Species Act and plans to introduce legislation by year's end that would require specific recovery plans for listed species and would rewrite critical habitat provisions of the law.

"The Endangered Species Act is not working and needs to be changed," said Sen. Craig Thomas, R-Wyo., in a statement issued Tuesday. Thomas is spearheading efforts to rewrite the species recovery provisions in the law to require a recovery plan to be in place when a species is listed as endangered

Sen. Michael D. Crapo, R-Idaho, another member of the group, hopes to have a bill introduced before the end of the year, according to press secretary Susan Wheeler.

Michael B. Enzi, R-Wyo., also a member, is pressing to include language that would provide incentives for landowners to participate in recovery efforts. "While the original goals of the ESA are noble, it has become more of a tool to lock up land than a tool used to protect and recover species," Enzi said in the Tuesday statement.

Chaired by Crapo and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., the group includes Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah, Conrad Burns, R-Mont., Wayne Allard, R-Colo., and Larry E. Craig, R-Idaho.

When Lincoln, the lone Democrat in the group so far, joined this month she said that "solutions can be found that will better protect species without hindering the rights of landowners."

The Senate group also is considering changes to the law that would boost state involvement in listing decisions and increase oversight of recovery programs.

On the House side, Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo, R-Calif., is pushing for an overhaul of the act. Draft legislation circulated before the August recess would narrow the definition of critical habitat and revamped conservation provisions in the law. The draft language was roundly panned by environmental groups.

Pombo plans to introduce his bill mid-September. "We're still in negotiations with the Democrats," said committee spokesman Matthew Streit. "We're confident that we'll have a very solid bill in September, and we're looking forward to working with the Senate," he said.

Source: CQ Today
Round-the-clock coverage of news from Capitol Hill.
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