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Commentaries and editorials

ESA Reform Bill Leaves House Committee

by Bill Rudolph
NW Fishletter, July 19, 2002

The House Resources Committee has passed H.R. 4840, a bill that would require the federal government to rely on empirical data when making major decisions under the Endangered Species Act, and convincing evidence that a species is in peril before it can be petitioned for ESA listing. The measure also calls for scientific peer review of major ESA decisions and requires the federal government to look at the economic impact of an ESA listing.

Committee Chair James Hansen (R-UT) called the July 10 vote a first step in fixing the ESA. "This law has impacted millions of people and caused ruin for thousands more," he said in a press release.

Many environmental groups opposed the bill, including American Rivers, the National Audubon Society, Friends of the Earth and the National Wildlife Federation. The groups said the bill was designed to undermine the science behind the ESA.

"Under the guise of expanding scientific 'peer review,' the bill would effectively delay actions that are supported by sound science and necessary to protect species facing extinction," the groups said in a joint letter to congressional representatives. "The bill also seeks to make it virtually impossible for citizens to petition for a species listing, while at the same time giving special access and special rights to regulated industries and development permit applications."

In addition, 314 scientists signed a letter to Congress, expressing opposition to any changes to the ESA that could slow decision-making. "There are many species hovering on the brink of extinction and they need scientifically-based action to help in their recovery," the scientists said in the letter.

Bill Rudolph
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