|I thought I should post something since it's been so long
||[Jan. 20th, 2006|05:04 pm]
How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
Dear Mr. Deschamps:|
Thank you for contacting me about proposals to reform the Endangered Species Act
(ESA). I appreciate knowing your views on this critical issue.
Since its passage in 1972, the ESA has served as the preeminent legal framework
for protecting and restoring fragile wildlife species. Born out of concern for
the rapidly declining bald eagle population, passage of the ESA placed strict
limits on, among other things, the spraying of hazardous pesticides like DDT
that were believed to have caused the eagle’s decline. The law has proven
tremendously successful, and no example is more evident than that of the eagle,
which now boasts robust population numbers. In fact, over the past three
decades only nine of the more than 1800 animals listed under the ESA have gone
extinct – a 99 percent success rate.
Unfortunately, the ESA has been under increasing attack in recent months as
critics have advocated for large-scale reforms. Opponents of the law assert
that it is too rigid, placing an undue burden on landowners who must comply with
its regulations once a threatened or endangered specie has been identified. In
the House of Representatives, Representative Richard Pombo (CA-11) introduced
legislation in September 2005 that aims to significantly modify the ESA. His
bill, the Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act (H.R. 3824), is an
extreme approach to reform that would ultimately do far more harm than good.
The legislation passed the full House just days after its introduction.
For many ESA critics, an issue of primary concern is the current lack of
compensation for those who are impacted when imperiled species or their habitats
are found on the owner’s property. As required under the law, when a listed
species is discovered, every effort must be made to protect the habitat deemed
critical toward aiding the species’ recovery. Thus, landowners are often faced
with a compulsion to restrict activities on those areas of their land that
qualify as critical habitat. Unfortunately, with no recourse available, these
regulations can have an unfair burden on the landowners.
Over the years, Congress has tried to address this concern by incentivizing
compliance with the law. Initiatives like the Landowner Incentive Program and
Habitat Conservation Plan grants, for example, are designed to provide financial
assistance to property owners who would otherwise have difficulty meeting the
ESA’s regulations. Additionally, under programs such as the Land and Water
Conservation Fund, the government can acquire land for public benefit from a
willing seller. Representative Pombo’s bill, however, seeks a far more extreme
approach to this issue by requiring the government to compensate all impacted
property owners, with no real provisions to ensure subsequent compliance with
the ESA regulations. While the current incentive programs may not be perfect,
they are a far more measured means of reducing conflicts over the ESA, providing
assistance to those most significantly impacted, and better meeting the law’s
goals of species restoration than the vaguely proposed compensation plan.
Additional measures would reduce the role that science plays in making species
assessments. For one, H.R. 3824 would eliminate the current requirement that
federal agencies consult first with biologists before proceeding with actions
that could harm fragile species. As it is currently structured, the ESA ensures
that the best available scientific data is the primary basis on which listings
are determined. Eliminating the consultation requirement would weaken the
science-based objectivity, which must remain the benchmark for which these
decisions are made. Additionally, H.R. 3824 would remove the restrictions on
the use of certain pesticides such as DDT, reversing the very protections around
which the ESA was initially based. These are only some of the alarming
provisions in a bill that threatens our landmark environmental law.
In the Pacific Northwest, the ESA remains a critical tool for helping to restore
our salmon populations. When the Clinton Administration first listed a number
of these populations in 1999, it was the first time ever that the law had been
applied in such an extensive urban area. It was an experiment that drew many
skeptics, drawing fears that the law would impose excessive economic burdens
that would outweigh environmental benefits. Ultimately, however, local, state,
and federal leaders agreed to do whatever was necessary to preserve the species
that are so iconic to our region. And while this will continue to be an uphill
battle for some time, the signs for future recovery are at least encouraging.
The recent endangered listing of the southern resident orca is another sign that
we need every tool available to protect Puget Sound from significant
environmental decline. After decades of dwindling numbers, the December 2005
listing of the orca population is an unfortunate indication of the state of our
broader Puget Sound ecosystem. Implementing ESA protection for these unique and
majestic creatures is an important step toward ensuring that the natural beauty
of our distinctive region is preserved for generations. Without these measures
at our disposal, the disappearance of the orcas, salmon, and many other species
that define our Northwest culture is all but guaranteed.
Throughout my Senate tenure, I have consistently supported strong endangered
species protections. For example, I have been proud to secure millions of
federal dollars for important salmon restoration and habitat conservation
efforts throughout our region. I have also helped secure vital funding for
Puget Sound orca research that led to the Administration’s decision to list the
population under the ESA. And I have consistently supported funding for
incentive programs that help property owners cooperate with ESA regulations.
Please know that I will always consider strong endangered species protections to
be a key priority.
I appreciate knowing your views on this important issue. Rest assured, should
H.R. 3824 or other similar legislation come before the full Senate for a vote, I
will voice my strong opposition. Again, thank you for contacting me. Please
keep in touch.
United States Senator
Dear Mr. Deschamps:
Thank you for contacting me regarding restoration of Florida's Everglades. I
appreciate having the benefit of your views on this matter.
The views of Washingtonians are very important to my work. I will keep your
thoughts in mind, and I encourage you to stay in touch. Please do not hesitate
to call on me whenever I may be of assistance.
Again, thank you for contacting me. I hope that you will continue to let me know
about this and other matters of interest to you.
United States Senator