Wildlife

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1993:

New head of USFWS
faces fight to renew ESA
LAND USE CONFLICTS ERUPT ALL OVER
WASHINGTON D.C.– Nominated
by President Bill Clinton to head the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service, forester Mollie Beattie
of Grafton, Vermont is expected to be Interior
Secretary Bruce Babbitt’s chief mapmaker, as
the administration seeks to secure renewal of a
strong Endangered Species Act by reorienting
the law to protect critical habitat rather than
individual species.
Her main duty, she told Burlington
Free Press reporter Nancy Bazilchuk upon
receiving word of her nomination, will be to
“map and inventory the country’s ecosystems,
so we know which ones are scarcest and need
more protection.”

The first woman to head the USFWS,
Beattie will also be asked to revitalize the
agency’s law enforcement division, whose
budget and staff were decimated after high-
profile conflicts with trophy hunters during the
12 years of the Ronald Reagan and George
Bush presidential administrations.
Meanwhile, even as Clinton person-
ally took the lead in trying to negotiate a solu-
tion to the spotted owl crisis in the Pacific
Northwest, more land use conflicts erupted.
Return of the panther
In Florida, pressured by a lawsuit
filed by the Fund for Animals, the USFWS on
May 5 published a conservation plan for the
endangered Florida panther that would put 3.2
million acres in 20 counties off limits to devel-
opment––about 53% of it belonging to private
individuals. Membership in Citizens for
Constitutional Property Rights immediately
soared, new local chapters were organized,
and numerous landowners and developers

pledged legal action. Leading members of
CCPR have already sued several governmental
bodies for allegedly depriving them of property
rights without compensation, via zoning and
other conservation measures.
The fracas broke out just as Florida
Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission biolo-
gist David Maehr suggested the panther might
be saved through the occasional introduction of
closely related Texas cougars to the remaining
habitat, a program begun in February to prevent
inbreeding. Formerly, experts believed that
the population of only 50 adults was perilously
low, Maehr explained, but the discovery of the
tremendous range of individual mountain lions
in the west in recent years now suggests that “15
to 20 adults are all that is necessary given nor-
mal demographics to last 100 years,” Maehr
said. “Other models suggest a minimum of 50
adults, and we are very close to that here.”
More trouble
Two weeks earlier, Defenders of
Wildlife served notice of intent to sue the
USFWS for not meeting a June 21, 1992 dead-
line for designating critical habitat for the
Louisiana black bear. The notice came days
after the Nature Conservancy bought 4,941
acres adjacent to the Tensas National Wildlife
Refuge to protect bear habitat. The land is
scheduled to be given to the refuge, but only
once the critical habitat designation is in place.
Another fight broke out along Cape
Cod, as off-road vehicle enthusiasts threatened
to sue or seek legislation to guarantee them
access to beaches that have recently been placed
off limits to motor vehicles to protect the nests
of the endangered piping plover.
And, demonstrating the clout of
endangered species protection opponents, the
California Fish and Game Commission on May
14 took the Mohave ground squirrel off the state
endangered species list to avoid obstructing
development in Kern County. County officials
say the presence of the rare squirrel has held up
or killed 226 development projects. The squir-
rel is still awaiting consideration for federal
endangered species protection.
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