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Commentaries and editorials

ESA Due for Birthday Makeover

by Editorial Board
Capital Press, May 24, 2012

It's the federal Endangered Species Act's 40th birthday, and as the landmark legislation reaches middle age it's time for an update.

Think back to 1973, when Richard Nixon signed it into law. Has anything changed since then? Has science progressed? Have politics changed? Has the environmental movement changed?

During the four decades of its existence, the ESA has had its failures -- and its successes. Unfortunately, the failures have far outnumbered the successes. Of the 1,440 species listed under the ESA in the U.S. only a handful have recovered.

The bald eagle was re-established in parts of the Lower 48 states by transplanting the birds from Southeast Alaska, where thousands of them live. Its numbers had been reduced by the loss of habitat, hunting and the use of DDT, a pesticide that caused the shells of its eggs to be too thin.

Once steps were taken to ban DDT and re-establish the bald eagle, the species was back. Today, it is fairly common to see bald eagles in many parts of the Lower 48.

It is a story of how the ESA should work. Identify the problem, the causes and the solutions and move forward. Unfortunately, it's not that easy in all cases, and the ESA is a part of the reason. Here are some flaws in the ESA:

In the meantime, taxpayers have been footing the bill -- amounting to billions of dollars -- to try to make a law work that is outdated and has done more to promote and fund environmental groups than the environment.

Congress, and the American people, should be interested in finding out how the law works now, how it can be improved to make it more effective and incorporate updated science.

Rep. Doc Hastings, chairman of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, has set up a working group to study the ESA. A review is long overdue. We urge him and others in Congress to give a serious, in-depth look at a law that history has shown to be in dire need of revision. Such a revision should produce an updated law that is good for all species, including humans.

Editorial Board
ESA Due for Birthday Makeover
Capital Press, May 24, 2012

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