Republicans challenge protection law
BILLINGS, Mont. — Republicans in Congress on Tuesday called for an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act to curtail environmentalists' lawsuits and give more power to states, but experts say broad changes to one of the nation's cornerstone environmental laws are unlikely given the pervasive partisan divide in Washington.
A group of 13 GOP lawmakers representing states across the country released a report proposing “targeted reforms” for the 40-year-old federal law, which protects imperiled plants and animals.
Proponents credit the law with staving off extinction for hundreds of species — from the bald eagle and American alligator to the gray whale. But critics contend the law has been abused by environmental groups seeking to restrict development in the name of species protection.
Led by Rep. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Rep. Doc Hastings of Washington state, who chairs the House Natural Resources Committee, the Republicans want to amend the law to limit litigation from wildlife advocates that has resulted in protections for some species. And they want to give states more authority over imperiled species that fall within their borders.
Also among the recommendations are increased scientific transparency, more accurate economic impact studies and safeguards for private landowners.
“The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species,” Hastings said. “The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species as endangered or threatened) than to delist.”
Signed into law by President Nixon in December 1973, the act has resulted in additional protections for more than 1,500 plants, insects, mammals, birds, reptiles and other creatures, according to the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Republicans have seized on the fact that only 2 percent of protected species have been declared recovered — despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending.
Noah Greenwald, a wildlife advocate with the Center for Biological Diversity, disputed the 2 percent figure as a “gross manipulation of facts” that ignores the hundreds of protected species on the path to recovery.
The political hurdles for an overhaul of the law are considerable. The Endangered Species Act enjoys fervent support among many environmentalists, whose Democratic allies on Capitol Hill have thwarted past proposals for change.
Oregon Rep. Pete DeFazio, the ranking Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, suggested on Tuesday that Republicans appeared intent on gutting the law. He predicted the changes being sought would go nowhere in the Senate.
“There is no appetite to overturn the (Endangered Species Act),” DeFazio said.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
- VA Phoenix social worker on leave for Halloween costume
- Peanut glut poses hefty bailout tab for taxpayers
- New Hampshire cancer patient gets permission to travel to Maine for medical pot
- Barrier nears completion in Indiana marsh to keep Asian carp from Great Lakes
- ‘Crisis mode’ near at U.S.-Mexico line as nearly 5,000 children try to cross border in October
- Obama signs $607B Defense bill but blasts GOP limits for Gitmo
- Video prompts calls for probe of Chicago police
- U.S. has urged legal reforms abroad to block Islamic State recruits
- Email address gives FBI lead on record theft of user IDs, passwords
- U.S. troops suspended in airstrike on Afghan hospital
- Ads for Nazi-themed show pulled from NYC subways