Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Saving Endangered Species - and Much, Much More

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Saving Endangered Species - and Much, Much More

Article excerpt

Chaos in Washington is always legislatively dangerous, for there is no shortage of congressmen eager to capitalize on the confusion and enact bad bills. Witness Sen. Dirk Kempthorne's sudden attempt to pass his Endangered Species Act (ESA) bill.

The Idaho Republican's bill has been aggressively opposed by the environmental and scientific communities since it was reported from committee more than a year ago. It adds numerous burdensome procedural hurdles to the species recovery planning process. It ignores the recommendations of our nation's top conservation biologists by codifying the Clinton administration's controversial habitat conservation planning policies, which the administration itself has said need repair. It weakens the act's ability to ensure that the activities of federal agencies don't jeopardize listed species. And its implementation requires large funding increases that Congress will not provide.

But the temptation to take advantage of the chaotic legislative environment is too much for ESA opponents to resist. To many elected officials, after all, endangered species are but metaphors for hated environmental regulations, angry developers, and political controversy. But before they emasculate the ESA, our senators should try a simple exercise. They should consider America without the imperiled grizzly bear, gray wolf, ocelot, Florida manatee, woodland caribou. The bald eagle, whooping crane, peregrine falcon, brown pelican, piping plover, spotted owl, wood stork, white-faced ibis, roseate tern. The desert tortoise, California red-legged frog, and American crocodile. Seven trout species and several chinook, coho, and sockeye salmon populations. A lengthening list of clams, snails, beetles, butterflies. Hundreds of wildflowers and other plants. Over 1,000 endangered or threatened US species in all. …

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