I was hoping it wouldn't happen so fast, but the emboldened Congressional Republicans are planning to go after the Endangered Species Act -- one of the most important, if not THE most important, pieces of enviromental legislation ever passed. The powerful ESA could keep nearly-extinct species from being extinct, and preserve necessary habitat, and stop development in its tracks. Literally.
Hence, since it interferes with the march of the economy and environmental exploitation, Republicans hate it, even while a majority of Americans support it. (From Huffington Post: "A 2015 poll found that 90 percent of registered voters support the law. And late last year, another poll found that 70 percent of voters opposed eliminating protections “for some at-risk wildlife species such as the gray wolf or the greater sage grouse,” that would prevent them from being safeguarded by the ESA.") That level of support doesn't matter to the cool, cool conservative old geriatric dodderheads in Congress. They've hated the ESA for a long time, and they see this as their chance to rewrite it. Not do away with it, mind you -- that would be too obviously drastic -- but to gut its powers.
What GOP lawmakers mean when they talk about modernizing the Endangered Species Act
"Patrick Parenteau, an environmental law specialist at the University of Vermont Law School, said that rather than “modernizing” the Act, so far all he’s seen is “weakening” in the form of making it harder to list species, designate critical habitat, prevent habitat loss, and even base decisions on sound science.
He said Republican leaders have come out so strongly in favor of changing the ESA because “it gets in the way of development and activities that destroy habitat and frustrates narrow but politically powerful economic interests.”
The panel talking about "modernizing" (i.e., weakening) the ESA is now headed by John Barrasso, who has been a long-time enemy of it. He said this in his opening statement:
“States, counties, wildlife managers, home builders, construction companies, farmers, ranchers and other stakeholders are all making it clear that the Endangered Species Act is not working today.”I wonder what he defines as not working? Well, let's look at what the reformers want to do, and then interpret. From Planet Experts:
"The reform agenda is focused on delisting endangered species and effectively removing restrictions on their habitats, capping the number of species listed, making it harder for citizens and civil society to file suits supporting conservation, and decentralizing decision authority so states and private entities– rather than the federal government – have rights over public lands."So, to make the ESA "work", the Republicans would likely:
- take species off the endangered species list, perhaps by changing the classification criteria;
- allow economic activity in, on, or around endangered species habitats;
- allow home building, construction, farming and ranching on land currently classified as endangered species habitat;
- put a limit on how many species can be listed as endangered;
- make it more difficult for lawsuits to either get a species listed for preserve/conserve habitat for endangered species; and
- give the states and private owners control of land where endangered species live.
To make it simpler, the Republicans want to create a scenario where basically the Endangered Species Act doesn't protect endangered species.