Would the bald eagle have survived without the Endangered Species Act? Would it be thriving today?
Unanimously passed in 1973, largely due to the threatened status of the bald eagle, this became America’s signature conservation law. As for the eagle, its status steadily improved until it was taken off both threatened and endangered species list in 2007. However, the wolf, the black-footed ferret, and many others may not join the eagle as conservation success stories — because the GOP is targeting the Endangered Species Act for a dramatic shakeup.
The Washington Post reports the issue more or less boils down to business concerns against conservation concerns:
Reforms proposed by Republicans include placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others, as well as adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process. Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.
The Endangered Species Act is notorious for tripping up industries like logging and oil drilling, and one issue in particular has been the wolf: Ranchers and farmers aren’t allowed to hunt them or retaliate for livestock killings as wolves are protected under the Act.
The frustration in some quarters is that rescuing these species has been difficult as climate changes and new challenges arise. The black-footed ferret, for example, is almost completely dependent on prairie dogs, to the point where M&M-spraying drones were built to vaccinate the prairie dogs against a disease just to save the ferret. The GOP feels the Act has gotten out of control and is less about species and more about controlling land directly.
It’s not clear when these changes might be attempted, or their chances of success. The current Congress has other priorities at the moment and there may be substantial disagreement on the proposed changes. We’ll see what happens as the year unfolds.
(via The Washington Post)