Underfunded ESA back in force

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1996:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Unwilling to drop
a year-long moratorium on the listing of species as
either “threatened” or “endangered” under the
Endangered Species Act, but facing more presidential
vetoes of the 1996 budget if the moratorium remained
in the budget bill, Congress on April 26 allowed Bill
Clinton to exercise a waiver amounting to a line item
veto of the ESA moratorium and several other riders
Clinton deemed unacceptable.
Clinton exercised the waiver soon after the
bill cleared the House and Senate––but it wasn’t all
good news for endangered species. Of symbolic
import, a rider allowing the construction of a third
telescope site on Mount Graham, Arizona, could not
be waived despite possible risk to the endangered
Mount Graham squirrel. Less noticed but of greater
significance, the budget bill cuts the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service budget for researching endangered
species proposals 39%, cuts the total USFWS budget
by $12.5 million, and cuts U.S. funding of the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species in half, from 25% of the total (about $1.4
million) to 12% ($700,000). CITES is the major
instrument for regulating the global traffic
in exotic animals.

to press, the USFWS had scheduled a
May 20 press conference to announce
whether the California red-legged frog
would become the first species to receive
protection post-moratorium.
The USFWS acknowledged a
backlog including “243 proposed species
that await final listing decisions, 182
canadiate species that await proposals
for listing, pending court orders to designate
critical habitat for seven species,
and unresolved petitions to list or delist 57 species. In
order to clear the backlog,” the USFWS release stated,
“approximately 100 biologists who had been reassigned
during the moratorium must be brought back
into the endangered species listing program, and they
must review the proposed listings to be sure the information
is up to date.”
USFWS director Mollie Beattie said that the
tight funding meant the backlog probably wouldn’t be
cleared away before the end of 1996.
In a slap at the the Biodiversity Legal
Foundation and other organizations using lawsuits to
protect habitat for signal species pending ESA “critical
habitat” designations, Beattie promised to “be
working with the Justice Department to seek relief
from court orders that require us to divert our
resources away from providing protection to the
species that most need it.”
Several proposed ESA reauthorization bills
are still before Congress, most of which would significantly
weaken endangered species protection, but
House speaker Newt Gingrich has indicated that none
are now likely to move before the November election.

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