GOP still gunning for ESA

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July 1996:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Endangered species protection
programs, already crippled by budget cuts, would
be deeply cut again under the proposed Interior Department
budget for fiscal 1997 approved on June 5 by the House
Interior Appropriations Subcommittee. Total Interior
spending would be $12 billion, down $500 million from
fiscal 1996, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service budget
was cut by $12.5 million, including a 39% cut in the
budget for researching endangered species listing proposals,
and a 50% cut in U.S. support of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species.
The proposed cuts were in line with a revised
strategy for dismantling the Endangered Species Act reportedly
favored by Louisiana Representative Billy Tauzin,
who struck as U.S. Fish and Wildlife chief Mollie Beattie,
49, fell ill again with brain cancer. Undergoing her first
surgery in December, Beattie returned to work in April
after a second operation, but three weeks into May was
forced to go back on sick leave, and resigned on June 5,
leaving administration of the ESA to deputy director John
Rogers––who inherited multiple political headaches.

According to the May 31 edition of ESAction, the
online newsletter of the Endangered Species Coalition,
“Tauzin is proposing that Congress pass a series of small
ESA-related bills this year rather than attempting to pass a
comprehensive reauthorization bill that would face serious
opposition from both parties. His plan would be to introduce
the less controversial sections of the Young-Pombo
bill,” drafted by House Natural Resources Subcommittee
chair Don Young (R-Alaska) and House member Richard
Pombo (R-California), “which even House Speaker Newt
Gingrich rejected as too sweeping.” While ESAction s a i d
specifics are unavailable, it noted that “The Tauzin bills
would include tax incentives to encourage landowners to
protect species on private property, and would set more
stringent criteria that must be met before federal regulators
could affirmatively protect a species.”
Taking time out
Four days before the subcommittee vote, the
National Marine Fisheries Service defied a court order to
decide by July whether or not to add the coho salmon to the
“threatened” category of species protected by the
Endangered Species Act. According to the NMFS court filing
that made the delay official, no decision will be made
before December at soonest––conveniently after the
November Congressional elections. A similar decision on
steelhead trout was also postponed.
Will Stelle, northwest regional director for
NMFS, said the delays were necessary because the recently
ended year-long moratorium on adding species to the
“threatened” and “endangered” lists had prevented completion
of essential research.
Skeptical environmental groups noted, however,
that the potential impact of a decision to protect either the
coho salmon or the steelhead trout could hand the
Republicans a resonant campaign issue in the politically
volatile Pacific Northwest. Aligned against species protection
measures might be the timber and agriculture industries,
along with hydroelectricity customers; divided would
be the recreational and commercial fishing industries,
whose leading organizations mostly favor protecting spawning
runs but oppose restricting fishing practices.
Endangered species protection at the state level
was meanwhile challenged in California at the end of May,
when the California Resources Agency proposed reducing
impact statement requirements. Currently, land developers
must produce impact statements pertaining to the presence
of any of the 1,000-odd rare plants and animals on the
state’s own protected list. Under the proposed change, the
impact statement requirement would apply only to the 359
species which are on both the state and federal lists.

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