|07-28-2006, 08:08 AM||#1 (permalink)|
Join Date: May 2004
Member # 30371
Location: Wichita, KS
Commentary on Cali and the Endangered Species Act
Endangered species repair required
By Richard W. Pombo
July 28, 2006
California, as much or more than any other state, has witnessed firsthand the Endangered Species Act's (ESA) shortcomings.
The Golden State has the second-highest number of endangered species in the nation, from the captivating California condor to the less-than-charismatic Delhi Sands Flower Loving Fly.
It's not too surprising, then, that California leads the Lower 48 states in acres of officially designated critical habitat. Nearly 20 percent of the state's approximated 100 million acres is in the regulatory clutches of this deleterious designation.
Despite the state's obvious stake in ESA, little has been done to move reform legislation through the U.S. Senate. Californians, with untold resources tied up due to ESA, deserve real reform and should demand action from their elected officials.
Even with ESA's unsuccessful track record, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently designated critical habitat for the California red-legged frog. The estimated cost in San Luis Obispo County, Calif., alone is $165 million. Projected costs for the entire state are $497 million over 20 years.
What are we getting in return for all that money? The answer, unfortunately, is not much. Multiple officials within the FWS, over successive administrations, have criticized the critical habitat provision as ineffective and conflict-ridden.
In 1999 congressional testimony, Jamie Rappaport Clark, then FWS director, said:
"... in 25 years of implementing the ESA, we have found that designation of 'official' critical habitat provides little additional protection to most listed species, while it consumes significant amounts of scarce conservation resources. We believe that the critical habitat designation process needs to be recast as the determination of habitat necessary for the recovery of listed species. This 'recovery habitat' should be described in recovery plans."
For a federal agency to admit its program provides little benefit while consuming huge resources translates in normal English to a program that is useless at best. However, after leaving public service for Defenders of Wildlife, Ms. Clark changed her tune. When she testifies now, she calls critical habitat "a crucial tool for ensuring the survival and recovery of imperiled species."
Like many aspects of the ESA, critical habitat is driven by litigation, providing an endless supply of slam-dunk lawsuits to activist groups that can bag taxpayer dollars in the form of attorney's fees.
Critical habitat is not the only outdated provision of the ESA. After more than three decades and billions of taxpayer dollars, FWS documents reveal that only 10 -- or less than 1 percent -- of the Act's roughly 1,300 listed species have been recovered. Of those that remain under its care, just 6 percent are classified as improving, and a staggering 70 percent are classified as either "in decline" or of "unknown" status.
No wonder the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) recently assessed the endangered species program as "not performing."