Improving the Endangered Species Act For the 21st Century

From The Daily Caller:

              FILE  - In this undated photo provided by Jayne Belsky via the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, is a gray wolf in a wooded area near Wisconsin Dells, Wis. Federal officials removed Great Lakes wolves from the endangered species list in January. Given free rein to manage the species, Wisconsin and Minnesota lawmakers pushed aside the concerns of some environmentalists and established their first seasons allowing hunters to bait, shoot and trap wolves.  (AP Photo/Jayne Belsky via the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, File)<br />


Improving the Endangered Species Act for the 21st century

Over forty years ago, Congress passed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with the noblest of intentions – conserve and recover wildlife facing preventable extinction. This is a moral obligation on which we can all agree. But with a species recovery rate of only two percent, the ESA has proven to be ineffective at protecting truly imperiled species and has unnecessarily hurt people’s livelihoods in the process. We can protect endangered species without unduly burdening the American people, but to do so we need a stronger, more effective ESA.

The ESA has not been updated by Congress since 1988 and a lot has changed over the last two and a half decades. In 1988 there was no Internet in our homes, people sent letters instead of emails, we listened to music on a Walkman instead of an iPod, and no one had heard of smart phones or text messages.  Today, we wouldn’t depend on technology from the 1980s and, similarly, we shouldn’t assume that a law last reviewed in the 1980s is the best and most effective for today’s world.


That’s why we formed an ESA working group last year to determine whether and how the law can be improved to work better for both species and people in the 21st Century.


The working group, consisting of thirteen Republican House Members from across the country, embarked on an eight month-long fact-finding mission. We fielded hundreds of public comments. We heard the testimony of 70 witnesses before the House Natural Resources Committee and held a public forum featuring a broad spectrum of views on the ESA. And earlier this month we released a final report documenting our findings and recommendations.


The working group found that much has changed since the law was first enacted, including the American public’s growing understanding of and appreciation for species conservation. Today, there are countless examples of effective conservation programs at the state and local level that respect multiple sets of values. Those who live near, work on, and enjoy our lands, waters, and wildlife show a tremendous commitment to conserving natural resources and a capability to do so without creating unnecessary conflicts with people. This boom in conservation awareness is a success story in and of itself, but the working group found that the ESA has simply fallen behind our ability to conserve and recover species. Instead, the ESA is stuck in a litigation-driven model that rewards those who prefer to use the courtroom at the expense of those who actually practice positive conservation efforts.

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