Glimmer of hope for ESA

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November 1995:

WASHINGTON D.C.––The Endangered Species
Act is still in trouble in both the Republican-dominated
Congress and the White House, where President Bill Clinton
has repeatedly shown willingness to compromise species protection
for conservative support––but some backing for a
strong ESA is emerging among eastern Republicans.
Countering a Senate bill introduced by Slade
Gorton (R-Washington) last spring and a similar House bill
introduced in late summer by Don Young (R-Alaska) and
Richard Pombo (R-California), which would effectively
rescind the ESA, Maryland Republican Representatives
Wayne Gilcrest and Connie Morella at the end of September
brought forth a bill to reauthorize the key provisions of the
current ESA, adopted in 1973.
Co-sponsors of the Gilcrest/Morella bill include
Sherwood Boehlert (R-N.Y.), Michael Castle (R-Delaware),
Christopher Shays (R-Connecticut), and Jim Greenwood and
Curt Weldon, both Republicans from Pennsylvania.
“An important facet of this bill is what it doesn’t
do,” said Gilcrest. “It doesn’t abandon species recovery as
the primary focus of the ESA. It doesn’t create an expensive,
bureaucratic compensation entitlement. It doesn’t walk away
from the protection of critical habitat, and it doesn’t relax the
prohibition on international trafficking in endangered
species,” all of which would result from passage of the
Gorton and Young/Pombo bills.
As anticipated, the House Resource Committee,
headed by Young, on October 13 rejected the
Gilcrest/Morella bill, 17-28, but approved the
Young/Pombo bill, 27-17, after allowing an amendment
offered by Representative John Shadegg (R-Arizona) to
weaken endangered species protection still further by requiring
that all federal lands be managed for their “primary mission,”
such as logging, grazing, recreation, or mining,
rather than for multiple use as they are managed now, which
gives conservation equal priority. Both votes split largely
along party lines.
As they stand, Clinton would veto the Gorton and
Young/Pombo bills, says Assistant Interior Secretary George
Frampton Jr.
Confirmed George Miller (D-California), the ranking
Democrat on the House Resources Committee, “The
Young/Pombo bill’s provisions on compensation, gutting the
habitat protection requirements, and redefining species
assures a presidential veto––assuming this travesty could ever
make it to the White House.”
As ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press, Senator
Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho) was expected to introduce yet
another bill to undo the ESA, modeled on the Gorton bill.
House Speaker Newt Gingrich, meanwhile, reportedly
favors an ESA reauthorization bill offered by Jim Saxton
(R-New Jersey). In Georgia on October 12 to receive an
award from Zoo Atlanta, of which he is a longtime major
patron, Gingrich indicated that whatever ESA bill eventually
clears the House will have to go through his newly formed
Republican Environmental Task Force first––which gives him
rather than Young the most authority over what shape it takes.
Amid the signs of pro-ESA sentiment, proto-wise
use wiseguy Chuck “Rent-A-Riot” Cushman added a new
organization, Repeal ESA Now, to the string he began in
1979 with the National Inholders Association. According to
Roger Featherstone of ESA Action, Repeal ESA Now “is a
typical wise-use stealth tactic to redefine the radical fringe.
The wise-use crowd will use this new ‘group’ to make supporters
of the Young/Pombo bill appear to be moderate.”
Like most of Cushman’s quasi-grassroots groups,
Repeal ESA Now appears to consist of a mailing list, fax and
telephone trees, and a post office box––this one in Coventry,
Rhode Island. The president is Brian Bishop of the rightwing
Alliance for America.
Wildlife budget battle
As important as the structure of the ESA itself may
be the structure of funding and spending for wildlife programs.
The Senate Judiciary Committee on October 18 held a
hearing on a bill parallel to one already passed by the House
which would require the government to pay property owners
for any loss of land value of one third or more resulting from
federal rules, including endangered species and wetlands protection.
Introduced by Senate majority leader Bob Dole (RKansas),
the bill would cost federal agencies $30 million to
$40 million a year to administer, and would pay out a lesser
amount in claims, according to a Congressional Budget
Office estimate. However, the White House Office of
Management and Budget––whose own budget the Republican
House hopes to eliminate––argues that the actual tab would
be close to $4 billion a year.
Earlier, on September 21, a Senate/House conference
committee on the Interior Department budget voted to
open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeastern
Alaska to oil and gas exploration, a longtime goal of Young
and Murkowski; voted to continue a moratorium on listing
new endangered and threatened species, cutting off related
funding; voted to merge the National Biological Service
formed by Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt into the U.S.
Geological Service; voted to increase logging in the Tongass
National Forest by about a third while barring the establishment
of new habitat conservation areas within the Tongass,
at the urging of Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who chairs
the Interior Subcommittee of the Senate Appropriations
Committee; and voted to kill $2 million in funding for
National Park Service administration of the newly created
East Mojave preserve, and instead allocate $600,000 for continued
administration by the Bureau of Land Management.
The resolution on the East Mojave was authored by California
Representative Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), who owns land
within the preserve and wants to keep it open to mining,
ranching, hunting, off-road vehicle use, and economic
Faced with the likelihood of a White House veto,
House Budget Committee chair John Kasish is reportedly
ready to introduce a substitute budget bill which would eliminate
the provision for oil and gas drilling in ANWR. “There
is a growing feeling in the Republican Party,” Kasish told the
Journal of Commerce, “that just like we have to save our
financial future for our kids, we have to save the environment
for our kids, too.” Thirty moderate Republicans have
asked Gingrich to endorse such a bill on behalf of ANWR.
Non-game funding
Reluctant to allocate general revenues toward
species protection, but hearing increasing clamor on behalf
of endangered species, Congress may look toward alternatives,
in particular one long advocated by the International
Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. IAFWA, chiefly
representing state fish and game departments, wants
Congress to impose a tax on camping equipment, cameras
and film, field guides, binoculars, bird feeders and birdhouses,
and recreational vehicles, as a funding source for
nongame conservation programs, including endangered
species protection. Modeled on the Pittman-Robertson levy
of 11% on hunting and fishing equipment, which has
financed game programs since 1937, the proposed tax is
energetically backed by hunting fronts including the National
Wildlife Federation, National Audubon Society, Ducks
Unlimited, Society for Conservation Biology, World
Wildlife Fund, and Pennsylvania Federation of Sportsmen’s
Clubs. Hunters argue that the use of any Pittman-Robertson
or hunting license revenues for nongame programs is an
unfair diversion––even though very little money actually is so
diverted. A 1992 IAFWA study found that about 250 game
species and high-profile endangered species are beneficiaries
of more than 95% of the money spent by public agencies on
U.S. wildlife, leaving 1,800 other mammals, birds, reptiles,
and amphibians to share just 5%.
Spreading the funding basis of wildlife programs to
non-consumptive users could break the hunting/fishing stranglehold
on wildlife management. A wildlife agency not
dependent upon hunting and fishing for revenue would have
much more freedom to close seasons and enforce conservation
and property protection laws unpopular with hunters.
Seeking enforcement
The Biodiversity Legal Foundation, the Fund for
Animals, and grassroots groups meanwhile continue to seek
court mandates for ESA enforcement despite the will of
Congress and the concessions of the Clinton administration.
On October 17, BLF filed notice of intent to sue the U.S.
Fish and Wildlife Service for issuing the July 19 directive that
implemented the moratorium on listing endangered and
threatened species by erasing the C-2 list of nearly 4,000 proposed
candidate species.
BLF also served notice of intent to sue USFWS for
failure to add the blacktailed prairie dog to the C-2 list. “A C2
designation would not provide any legal protection for the
prairie dog,” a BLF release stated, “but would encourage
conservation measures and allow for maximum flexibility in
land management. It is clearly a reasonable course of action
for this grassland keystone species, but it was rejected by
USFWS due to political pressure. Improved protection of the
prairie dog ecosystem would help to conserve a fascinating
diversity of native wildlife on the Great Plains, including the
blackfooted ferret, swift fox, ferruginous hawk, burrowing
owl, and many other species now in decline. The eventual
listing of a number of these species under the ESA could be
avoided if state and federal agencies were to adequately protect
and restore the prairie dog ecosystem.”
On October 4, the Fund, BLF, and Swan View
Coalition won a round when U.S. District Judge Paul
Friedman ruled that USFWS acted in an “arbitrary and capricious”
manner in issuing a recovery plan for grizzly bears in
1993 that “fails to establish objective, measureable criteria
which when met would result in a determination, in accor
dance with the provisions of the ESA, that the grizzly bear be
removed from the threatened species list.”
Said Fund attorney Eric Glitzenstein, “This is the
first time a species recovery plan has been successfully challenged
in court. Our victory sets a precedent that USFWS is
required by law to base recovery plans on scientific data and
objective evidence of real recovery––not on the desires of
those who wish to hasten delisting for their own purposes,”
namely the game agencies of Montana and Wyoming.
Montana permitted grizzly bear hunting until forced to stop by
a Fund lawsuit in 1991, while the Wyoming administration
also has indicated interest in starting a grizzly season when
and if the bears are delisted.
Two days later, on October 6, the Fund and
Australians for Animals served notice of intent to sue if
USFWS fails to act on a May 1994 petition to list the koala as
endangered. “By law,” explained spokesperson Mike
Markarian, “USFWS must publish a finding on the petition
one year after receiving it.”

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