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Nancy Drew Donating Member (28 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 10:47 AM
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Endangered Species: House, Senate set to make ESA reform a priority next s
Endangered Species Act reform is shaping up to be a top issue for the next Congress, with the Republican leadership of the House and Senate authorizing committees vowing to prioritize passage of reform legislation.

And with a larger Republican majority in the both chambers, as well as a White House amenable to ESA reform, congressional aides said the time is ripe to move a bill to final passage.

Spokesmen for Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) both said yesterday that legislation on the issue would be a top priority this Congress.

"The makeup of the House and Senate and White House gives us the political advantage to get the right thing done, and we're going to capitalize on it," Resources Committee spokesman Brian Kennedy said yesterday.

Meetings with staff from the House, Senate and White House will start before the 109th Congress is even sworn in, so that the committee can come "straight out of the gates" next year to begin moving a bill, Kennedy said.

Republicans have criticized the act as a failure for species and landowners, characterized more by litigation than successful conservation, with only 1 percent of its species ever making it off the list. But attempts in the past decade to pass reform have fallen flat in the face of wavering commitment from legislators.

Kennedy said that given the re-election of President Bush, Pombo is anxious to get the administration on board, to ensure the president will at least sign a bill, if not encourage the Republican Congress to move on it.

The president has spoken in broad terms of a need to revamp ESA, though he has not detailed what sort of legislation he would support, nor moved to champion any of the efforts made on the Hill thus far.

Commitment from the Senate also brings a new element to ESA reform efforts, of which Pombo has largely been the most vocal advocate on the Hill until now. However, Senate staff predicted a longer timeline on the issue than did Kennedy, saying swift passage of a bill would be ideal, but not necessarily feasible.

Inhofe and Sen. Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), who chairs the Wildlife Subcommittee with oversight of ESA, have both committed to work on reform. Senate aides said there have already been some roundtable discussions among Hill staff, environmental groups and landowner stakeholders to gain information and attempt to create consensus on the issue.

Crapo has indicated he would like to see local, cooperative efforts serve as the foundation for ESA reform but would not want to move a bill before enough stakeholders were on board to move forward on a bipartisan basis. EPW Committee spokesman Will Hart indicated that time could be coming soon.

"ESA is one of the issues that we're looking at this year for sure," he said. "Sen. Crapo has been working on this for a couple of years and believes the time is ripe; so does Sen. Inhofe."

Hart said the committee would move forward with hearings this Congress and look toward legislation, though it is not yet clear what the bill will look like or if it will be ready for action in the next year.

Indeed, final passage of a bill may not prove to be as easy as Pombo and Kennedy predict. Congressional aides and analysts on every side of ESA agree that reform of the act is a contentious issue, and environmental lobbyists maintain that even with a Republican majority, Congress will have trouble passing legislation without at least some bipartisan and conservationist support.

Assuming GOP caucus unity, at least five Democrats would have to sign onto the effort to overcome a filibuster in the Senate, and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle will also have to consider how their vote will come across to constituents, who in polls from environmental groups have expressed overwhelming support for protection of endangered species.

But John Kostyack, an attorney with National Wildlife Federation, said environmentalists are concerned that House Republicans may continue to try to push through bills over the opposition of conservation groups.

Environmentalists have agreed that there is room for improvement in ESA, though many have categorized Republican efforts thus far as gutting the act, rather than adding the funds and enforcement they feel is needed to strengthen it.

"They have passed bills over the opposition of conservation groups, and we are concerned we will continue to have that problem," Kostyack said. "Even if we're able to get a bill we can support on the Senate side, the risk is that the damage would be done through a conference committee."

Pombo has spoken of the need for ESA reform since taking his chairmanship two years ago, and he successfully passed two bills out of committee last July. But the bills -- which would have added requirements before listing a species or designating its critical habitat and allowed more exemptions for landowners -- proved too controversial to bring to the floor.

But Kennedy said that effort laid the groundwork and set a benchmark to make ESA reform easier in the next Congress. He also said this time around they would work to create consensus and gain final passage.

"There is no point in passing a bill that goes no farther than the House, we want full congressional passage and the signature of the president," Kennedy said. "The chairman will work with Senators Inhofe and Crapo and other interested parties to put something together that is agreeable."

It remains to be seen what the proposal would look like. Kennedy said it could range from targeted measures to a sweeping overhaul, though he said peer review and critical habitat reform will certainly come into play.

Kennedy said other priority issues for the Resources Committee would be ANWR and energy legislation. And longer term, he said that toward the end or second half of the 109th Congress, Pombo would aim to expand the Healthy Forests program. Kennedy said the current Healthy Forests legislation, which applied to 20 million acres, was "really a starter program." With Forest Service estimates of 80 million acres of forest at extreme risk, Pombo would like to assess Healthy Forests and try to expand it in the next couple of years.

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Webster Green Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 10:54 AM
Response to Original message
1. Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.....
Must have more Wal-Marts.

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Nancy Drew Donating Member (28 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 12:55 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Costco
Costco is doing there part to proliferate consumerism as well and they are run by a deeply liberal CEO.
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Webster Green Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 02:08 PM
Response to Reply #2
5. I go to Costco once a week, at least.
I usually buy my gasoline there too.
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alarimer Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 01:15 PM
Response to Original message
3. There is a reason species don't make it off the list
It is because we are doing a piss-poor job of protecting them from habitat destruction, ESA or not. The reason they end up in court over the ESA is because the Fish and Wildlife Service is not actually doing its job abd listing species that need it. There have been some notable successes: the Bald Eagle, alligators. But the Endangered Species Act is endangered itself by developers who don't give a shit about the environment. "Reform the ESA" is all about money. Congress needs to keep its corporate donors happy, don't you know. Heaven forbid a road doesn't get built through the middle of a forest because of some little bird or another. God, I hate these people, all they want to do is pave it over to build some huge condos or something.
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OrwellwasRight Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Nov-14-04 02:03 PM
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4. Pombo is a freak show
who should rename the committee the Exploitation of Natural Resources Committee.

One thing we need to do to combat Pombo's form of anti-environmentalism is to realize that it comes from a view of property law: that someone land is not connected to other land or to the wild plants and animals which that land houses and therefore ther is no responsbility to neighbors, fellow citizens or anyone to use the land in a way that preserves and conserves it for the future. Translated into law, they are pushing an agenda that says all regulation, whether by local zoning laws or the ESA is somehow a taking in need of compensation under the Fifth Amendment. This view (although it is really a twisting of the original meaning of a taking) is especially pushed by Scalia, Thomas, et al and frankly scares me more than their views of abortion.

Property owners of every stripe are attracted to this theory, but they don't see the consequences for our future. Its popularity, though, is putting Pombo-ites into Congress by the droves out in mountain west. Pombo has a high school education and his "real-life" job is as a rancher. Although I do not want to stereo-type anybody, his lack of further education allows him to discount scientific and statistical evidence as the mere musings of "pointy-headed intellectuals." Instead of trying to learn more, he exploits his lack of education to pursue his own ends. He may or may not have the capability or the interest to judge for himself the reliability or validity of the competing scientific papers presented to him about why we do or do not need to take action to preserve open spaces and habitat for all god's creatures. Thus, he can, and does, easily discount evidence as radical environmental propaganda because it interferes with his vision of the inviolability of property rights.

What we need is a strong way to counter this property-rights based anti-environmentalism. And ideas? Anybody know who's already working on this?

Anyone who is appalled by Scalia's decisions and is interested in his opportunistic property law rulings might be interested to read "Making it Up" in the Spring 2003 edition of the Urban Lawyer (35 Urb. Law. 203 (2003)).
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blindpig Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon Nov-15-04 08:13 AM
Response to Reply #4
6. Pombo may be anti-intellectual but he has his intellectual enablers
Edited on Mon Nov-15-04 08:26 AM by blindpig
think Ayn Rand and libertarians in general. Despite my agreement with their view of individual rights, their environmental views particularly concerning the commons, is totally unacceptable.
It seems as though neither the elegant explanations of the complexity and interconnectedness of our biosphere nor EO Wilson's beautiful though non empirical concept of biophelia can make a dent in what is to my mind a justification of greed.
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