The Republican Rob Bishop from Utah made himself clear that he supported to open up one million acres in the area for business purposes like recreation and oil-gas development. He manifested that he “would love to invalidate” the Endangered Species Act.
He claimed that he could dismantle the law and he shepherded five bills out of the Natural Resource Committee. The Republicans on the panel accompanied his proposal by argumenting that a change is necessary because the law needs to be modernized since it dated 1973.
On the other hand, Democrats and Conservationists stated that the bills might whittle away the law’s ability to save wildlife from extinction. Several measures are being considered in order to change this reality.
The first idea would be to force the federal government to have into account the economic impact of saving a species. Another measure would be to ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to postpone the data collected by the state being the “best scientific and commercial data available,” And the third proposal would base on file court claims against the government by citizens and conservation groups.
According to the vice president for conservation programs at Defenders of Wildlife, Bob Dreher, the “battle” will be royal. He believed that” “You’re going to see a strong, strong movement opposing cuts to the ESA (…) It’s going to be the fight of my conservation career.”
On the other hand, Bishop stated that “Hopefully, working with our colleagues in the Senate and the administration, we can lay a foundation for ESA reform that will do us well.” He expressed his confidence about these bills prospects before the committee acted.
The passage of the bills might be considered Bishop´s most significant legislative victory in Utah where he is seen as a charismatic leader of the state Republican Party and co-founded the Western States Coalition.
Last year, Bishop manifested that “It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” And then, he added “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”
For Democrats, Bishop´s disdain is quite notorious. There is a lack of opportunities for scientific and federal government experts to check the claims. The lawmaker’s representative Raúl M. Grijalva stated “The bias and the setup begins at the hearing,” which is the Natural Resources Committee ranking Democrat, but they think the act is “too cumbersome, it allows too many radical lawsuits, the states can do a better job,”
It took 73 years in the making of the law, and it followed the Lacey Act of 1900 which was passed to conserve wildlife after passenger pigeons. Other acts preceded it like the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1929 and Endangered Species Preservation Act of 1966.
Some years later this preservation act became the Endangered Species Act. It gives the federal government control to regulate the use of land which is the habitat for endangered species.Moreover, it helps to protect animals or plants through the Equal Access to Justice Act.
Nowadays, more than 2,000 species are considered endangered. Several lawmakers argued against the law. But, private landowners were restricted from some activities on their property such as logging and oil or gas drilling to cattle grazing and housing development.
Currently, GOP lawmakers argue that the state should understand species better and protect them. Animal populations have been disregarded for many decades by the state.
A recent study by the University of California revealed that the investment to protect endangered and threatened wildlife over the last ten years ended in 2014 was insignificant in comparison with the federal one ($57 million vs. more than $1.1 billion).
Mostly, states regulation might cover fewer species than the federal government, and so 17 states might not try to protect plants. Plus half of the states would not require scientific evidence to list endangered species or to remove them.
As regards Conservationists, they may be worried about the ESA bills and they may also be preoccupied about the proposal which asks the federal wildlife officials to consider the “likelihood of significant, cumulative economic effects” of listing an animal or plant.
Rep. Pete Olso, the author of this bill, portrayed the act as “a political weapon for extreme environmentalists,” he assured that the potential revenue and job losses are a consequence of species protection which should not be ignored anymore.
His bill would disdain a tenet that set U.S. species protections apart from those of other countries: Science should be a much stronger factor than money.
As Dan Ashe, a Fish and Wildlife director under the Obama administration highlighted to put the economic interests first would be a severely affect the law. An example of this would be the 2008 protection of polar bears under the George W. Bush administration, which probably would not have happened.
He questioned “What a hard decision that was,” “If [agency officials] were required to consider the economic impact of the polar bear listing, would they have listed it? I think not.”
He is convinced that the Endangered Species Act is facing a complicated situation,“Wide scientific consensus is that we’re living amid another great extinction crisis — people are calling it the sixth mass extinction,” he expressed.
By looking at the bills, he concluded that a concern for improving the implementation of the Endangered Species Act exists so there might be some hope to protect these animals and plants.