Subject: U.S. Environment: Endangered S (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 13 Mar 1998 11:47:52 -0500 (EST)

                      J. Michael Williamson
Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
                   Associate Professor-Science
  Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
             voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
            fax:    617.734.8666, or 978.468.0073

          "Mother, Mother Ocean, I have heard your call,
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                        Jimmy Buffett

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 10 Mar 98 04:14:00 GMT 
Subject: U.S. Environment: Endangered S

U.S. Environment: Endangered Species Act in danger

  WASHINGTON, (Mar. 3) IPS - One of the corner stones of domestic
environmental policy in the United States -- a law that protects
endangered species -- is under attack by Congress and multinational
   For a quarter of-a-century, the 1973 Endangered Species Act has
protected threatened species and their habitats and also halted the
demise of numerous animal species, including the bald eagle, the
humpback whale and the timber wolf.
   Now, environmental groups say that a coalition of Republicans and
some Democrats, backed by multinational logging, oil and mining
corporations, is attempting to overhaul and possibly weaken the
   Environmentalists declare that the proposed reforms would do more
to protect corporate developers and private property owners than
wildlife. They also say that the attack on the act is part of a
larger congressional strike at environmental laws, including the
Kyoto Climate Change Treaty.
   Drafted by Idaho Republican Dirk Kempthorne, and supported by
Exxon, ARCO Coal, Dow Chemical, Occidental Oil, Georgia-Pacific
Corporation, UNOCAL, and Monsanto among many others, the proposed
bill attempts to rewrite the original Endangered Species Act.
   Congressional supporters of the reform bill argue that while the
original act set noble goals, they have proven difficult and
expensive to carry out.
   "The public believes that it is not getting its money's worth
because the current act has cost hundreds of millions of dollars
in the name of preserving plants and animals, but we have little
to show for these expenditures," says W. Henson Moore, president
of the American Forest and Paper Association and the main organizer
behind the corporate coalition favoring reforms.
   Supporters of the Kempthorne bill, including Rhode Island
Republican John Chafee and Montana Democrat Max Baucus, argue that
of the 1,126 species listed as "endangered," only about 25 are no longer
considered in danger -- despite the fact the U.S.
government spends $227 million a year in enforcing the law.
   Landowners who find endangered species on their property say that
they spend much more than that when they have to draw up
conservation measures to avoid harming the species. Costly
"mitigation measures" sometimes tie up their land for years and
has even driven some into bankruptcy, they argue.
   The reforms, they say, would provide incentives to landowners to
protect endangered species saying that the original act often
discourages such actions.
   But Washington environmental groups, such as the National Wildlife
Federation and the Sierra Club, say the Kempthorne bill is
extremely regressive and would undermine protection for endangered
plants and wildlife.
   The central problem with the reforms lies in the provisions for
Habitat Conservation Plans, says Carl Pope, executive director of
   he Sierra Club. These plans are negotiated deals in which
landowners agree to adopt specific conservation measures in
exchange for permission from the federal government to develop a
property, even though it destroys endangered wildlife and critical
   The plans allow landowners, for example, to build a strip mall or
cut down a forest -- even if it would harm endangered species --
as long as the landowner takes measures to "lessen the degree of
   The reforms create only one avenue for correcting failing
conservation plans -- the state government must pay the landowner
to make the needed changes in a plant to protect the species.
   Kim Delfino, an attorney for the U.S. Public Interest Research
Group, think this wrongly reverses the economic responsibility from
the landowner to the tax payer. "The polluter should pay," she
   Environmental groups also argue that the Kempthorne bill creates
miniature zoos or "prison camps" for endangered species, allowing
habitat destruction up to the very edge of currently occupied
habitat. The area needed for wildlife populations to expand and
recover, known as critical habitat, would no longer be necessary
under the reforms.
   In Utah, for example, Mojave Desert Tortoises are being moved to
a fenced-off federal cattle grazing area. Under this scenario,
there is little chance for the tortoise population to expand and
recover outside their federally mandated zoo.
   The Kempthorne bill also fails to clarify a clear scientific and
legal standard for habitat destruction, says environmental groups.
Therefore, they argue, even if a hydroelectric dam interferes with
a salmon's long-term survival and recovery but not its immediate
demise, the dam could still be constructed.
   The proposed reforms would also impose new complicated and costly
requirements for listing and recovery planning for endangered
species, says Gregory S. Wetstone, legislative director of the
Washington-based Natural Resources Defense Council.
   He says the bill inserts new and burdensome requirements including
cost/benefit analyzes and detailed descriptions of rejected
   "Not only will these mandates divert precious funds from recovery
to the administration of these new requirements, they will also
encourage expensive time-consuming litigation," says Wetstone.
   Environmentalists say the reforms also inhibit the ability of
federal agencies to monitor endangered species by imposing a 60-
day time-limit on the reviewing of development plans.
   While the fate of the Kempthorne bill is uncertain,
environmentalists say it is just part of a larger assault on
environmental protection coming out of congress this year. Other
threatened legislation include the Clean Air Act and the Superfund
hazardous waste law, which provides a toxic waste clean up program.
   Among other anti-environmental action, the U.S. Senate appears bent
on thwarting the landmark global warming treaty signed earlier this
year in Kyoto, Japan. And a grazing bill intended to head off
environmental reforms could actually increase subsidized
destruction of Western rangeland, says Wetstone.