The congressman who said he “would love to invalidate” the Endangered Species Act is closing in on his goal.
Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) recently shepherded five bills out of the Natural Resources Committee he chairs that would dismantle the law piece by piece. Many Republicans on the panel say the proposals are necessary changes that would modernize the 1973 law. Democrats and conservationists say the bills would whittle away the law’s ability to save wildlife from extinction.
One measure would force the federal government to consider the economic impact of saving a species rather than make a purely scientific call. Another would require the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which administers the act along with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, to defer to data collected by states as the “best scientific and commercial data available,” although state funding related to the act accounts for a small fraction of that supported by the federal government.
Under a third proposal, citizens and conservation groups would be stripped of a powerful tool that allows them to file court claims against the government when they believe its protections fall short. Among other actions, the remaining bills would also remove protections for gray wolves in Midwestern states and block courts from ruling on the validity of the government’s decisions.
The legislation is setting up a titanic clash over a law that forms the foundation of American wildlife protection and has been copied around the world.
The eight-term congressman has long been an opponent of the law, which is credited with saving the bald eagle, humpback whale, grizzly bear, California condor and the Florida manatee.
“It has never been used for the rehabilitation of species. It’s been used for control of the land,” Bishop said this year. “We’ve missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act. It has been hijacked.”
Bishop’s disdain was clear in the hearings, Democrats say. On witness panels, they charge, farmers, dam operators, state wildlife managers and others opposed to the act got their say about its supposed shortcomings, without comparable opportunities for scientific and federal government experts to check those claims. The Interior Department even barred Fish and Wildlife staff members from meeting with the minority caucus’s staff members as they attempted to gather information for hearing preparations, according to lawmakers such as Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.).
(Excerpted from Washington Post 11/05/17)