From the Publishers

The endangered Endangered Species Act

by Carolyn Chase
ast weekend, along with ET columnist Bob Nanninga, I attended a workshop on the status of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) hosted by the Society of Environmental Journalists. All in all, it does not look good in the short term - at least if you are in favor of conservation - for either resources, time or taxpayer money. In a variety of guises, powerful economic and political forces are organized against environmental protection.
The ESA has been de-funded. At the least, it will be rewritten, and it may be eliminated entirely. It seems that when it was passed 25 years ago, it was a more hopeful era - or a more realistic one. Perhaps they noticed that without some kind of governance of environmental health, eventually it would come back to haunt us in decreased quality of life for us humans. This is what the ESA is about.
Why don't people get it? The ultimate purpose of the ESA is to protect human life. If smaller species are having trouble surviving, then eventually larger species such as ourselves will be affected. Because this is a slow process, it is tougher to understand. But this also means there is a chance to see the signs of deteriorating health, of life on earth, and do something about it. One of those signs is a loss of biodiversity as revealed by the extinction or loss of other species.
The ESA also represents a moral stand on behalf of the other forms of life in Creation. It seeks to protect life because it is the right thing to do. But as an "unfunded mandate," various regulatory agencies seek to put the expenses onto either private property owners (who have organized against it) or other jurisdictions (who have to spend taxpayers' money on lawyers and experts doing studies to figure out what to do but who can never do anything but study it, because they don't have the political leadership or funding.) Without a fair funding mechanism, and the political leadership to create it, the ESA is doomed to its current fate.
The workshop featured many individuals in positions of interest and power with respect to the future of our resources laws. Presenters included Richard Pambo, Sacramento area rancher-turned-Congressman who serves on the House Natural Resources Committee. Mr. Pambo is a self-proclaimed property rights movement member and chair of recent hearings, in California and elsewhere, regarding the future of the ESA. Other panels included Jim Baca, former head of U.S. Bureau of Land Management, (who said, "we have no control of our public lands"); Mollie Beattie, current head of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service; Carl Pope, Executive Director of the Sierra Club; and the Directors of the California Farm Bureau Federation and the California Resources Agency.
The "regulators and bureaucrats," as Congressmen Pambo and Bilbray often refer to them, are just trying to do their jobs, but often seem to exercise very poor judgment. The property rights people have legitimate grievances and are not going away. But neither are the pressures on our environment, our dependence on it, and our need to protect it for ourselves and future generations.
All is not doom and gloom - if enough of the public participates in the process and lets their local officials know that they support environmental protection and they will support officials who provide leadership on these issues.
Representative Pambo said, "If the species is endangered, it goes on the list... we need a definitive process based on science..." and later, "we will spend the money on the science." And, "we need to bring people into the process." So, we, and you, need to get into that process!
The environment was never mentioned in the Republican's Contract with America and has been little discussed by most political leaders on either side. But it is of critical importance to everyone and the economy.
Please take the time to communicate your interest in and support for these issues to your elected officials at all levels. If you need contact information, call or email me. To write about the ESA specifically, send a letter to: ESA Task Force Hearings/ House Resources Committee/ U.S. House of Representatives/ 1324 Longworth House Office Building/ Washington, D.C. 20515.
You can make a difference in the issues of the day, but only if you do!