The Endangered Species Act (ESA), now 40 years old, is becoming endangered. Republicans who say the conservation laws are not successful in helping endangered species and have cost much more than they are worth, seek to modify provisions of the Act. The report from 13 Republican lawmakers also brought up the subject of lawsuits challenging the ESA. The group would like to allow states more input on what species should be on the endangered list.
Those who support the ESA say that hundreds of animals have been kept from becoming extinct, including the gray whale, the American bald eagle and the American alligator. The GOP contingent replies that only two percent of animal species on the endangered list have been taken off the list.
The ESA has been bogged down with requests to take endangered species on or off the list, and those who seek to conserve the flora or fauna of a region tend to be passionate about their mission. This results in costly lawsuits for administrators of the ESA, and Republicans say the costs are making for inefficient legislation.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife recently extended its deadline to consider whether to keep the North American wolverine under federal protection. The reason for prolonged consideration was due to a substantial disagreement between scientists regarding the accuracy of available data to assess the wolverine’s environs.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is recommending that the gray wolf be taken off the endangered list since there are no gray wolves left in California. Amaroq Weiss, West Coast wolf organizer for the Center for Biological Diversity, was disheartened by the request: “Wolves deserve a chance to recover in California so it’s disappointing to see the Department of Fish and Wildlife’s recommendation against protections,” he says.
In the past, gray wolves lived all over California, but the practice of killing them to protect farmers, livestock and harvests drove them to extinction. Since then, one wolf from Oregon has been located in California during different seasons, but it has gone back to Oregon. The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife predicts that the growing population of wolves in Oregon will result in their migration to California.
Recently in Oregon, the three-inch chub fish has been taken off the endangered list. It was placed there in 1998, the first fish species to be lifted from protection. Its only home is in the backwaters of Oregon; after swamps were drained to assist farming, the chub was declared endangered when it disappeared from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. Back in 1992, there were only 1,000 chub fish in eight locations.
Now, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, with the cooperation of landowners, has restored backwater environments for the chub fish. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also altered dam releases to mimic the flow of water to that of natural rivers. Thanks to conservation efforts, there are now 180,000 chub fish in 80 locations.
The Endangered Species Act, however, may be next on the endangered list if the 13 Republicans have their way. They insist on cutting back on lawsuits against the ESA and to cut down on costs of conservation.
By Lisa M Pickering