Young wants to boogie on ESA

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, Jan/Feb 1997:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Renewing efforts
to gut the Endangered Species Act, House of
Representatives Resource Committee chair Don
Young (R-Alaska) “will want to move an ESA bill
‘as early as possible’ in the 105th Congress because
the issue would be ‘too politicized’ in 1998,” Roger
Featherstone of Defenders of Wildlife advised in the
November 28 edition of GreenLines, an online daily
newsletter, quoting an unnamed Republican aide.
“On the Senate side,” Featherstone continued, “the
ESA is ‘absolutely a top priority’ for Senator Dirk
Kempthorne of the Senate subcommittee with jurisdiction.”
Kempthorne also offered attempts to dismantle
the ESA in the 104th Congress.

As of mid-December, three weeks before
committee appointments for the 105th Congress
were to be finalized on January 7, indications were
that House Speaker Newt Gingrich would ignore
appeals for Young’s ouster issued by coalitions
including Republicans for the Environment, representing
prominent Republicans from 45 states, as
well as Atlanta Constitution columnist Martha
Ezzard, who fingered Young as “a major reason
Democrats were able to make the ‘extremist’ label
stick during the 1996 campaign.”
Ezzard offered quotations from chairman
Young including an August statement on Alaska
Public Radio that, “I’m proud to say that environmentalists
are my enemy. They are not Americans,
never have been Americans, never will be
Ezzard speculated that Gingrich might support
an improved rather than weakened ESA in the
105th Congress, despite keeping Young, because
“even when he doesn’t listen to others, he listens to
his friend Terry Maple, director of Zoo Atlanta.
And Maple is the chair of the committee that’s giving
Gingrich advice from the home front on the ESA.
Maple says he’ll advise the speaker that three things
need to be done: Give landowners incentives to preserve
species; fund sound science and listen to
respected scientists, not industry-funded ‘experts’;
and put more resources into the field.”
Defenders on November 22 fired an early
shot in the skirmishing for position at the outset of
105th Congress ESA action by filing a 60-day notice
of intent to sue the U.S. Marine Corps for allegedly
threatening endangered Sonoran pronghorn with aircraft
training exercises over the Sonoran desert. “In
addition to possible direct kills,” Defenders’ statement
said, “military activities are believed to cause
stress, panic, and bodily injury to pronghorns while
displacing them from their feeding, drinking, fawning
and bedding areas. The fastest land mammal in
the western hemisphere can’t compete with military
jets, and is rapidly heading toward oblivion.”
The case is of strategic import not only
because it pits the ESA against the political strength
of the military, but also because the range in question
abuts Mexico. The 104th Congress authorized
an ESA waiver for a fence along the border to intercept
illegal immigrants––which would also sever the
pronghorn migration routes. Defenders could contend
in settlement talks that either the aircraft must
stop overflights or the fence must be left unbuilt, to
insure that the pronghorn keep access to quiet refuge.
An October 29 lawsuit seeking ESA protection
of the Barton Springs salamander, filed by
the Save Our Springs Alliance, of Austin, Texas,
gained urgency on December 6 when 12 salamanders
died of an unknown cause, from a population which
was down to just two known specimens in 1995,
before rebounding to 45 earlier in 1996. Interior
Secretary Bruce Babbitt in August agreed to leave
protection of the salamander to the state of Texas.
Federal intervention on behalf of the salamander and
other rare species in the Texas hill country has been
vehemently opposed by Senator Kay Bailey
Hutchison. Acting Fish and Wildlife Service director
John Rogers had on December 3 jointly
announced with the National Marine Fisheries
Service “new guidelines designed to streamline and
expedite the habitat conservation plan permit process
under the ESA,” hoping to ease opposition by small
landowners to “critical habitat” designations.
Environmental Defense Fund ecologist
David Wilcove reported on December 5 that according
to FWS data, 27% of endangered species found
on private land are still declining, 19% are stable,
3% are recovering, and the status of 51% remains
unknown because landowners have kept investigators
out. On federal land, he said, 28% are declining,
39% are stable, and 18% are improving.

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