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Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Endangered Species Act is Endangered

The environment surrounding The Endangered Species Act is becoming less hospitable:

Threatened and endangered, Editorial, The Oregonian: After 30 tumultuous years, the Endangered Species Act sorely needs a thoughtful, rational rewrite ...Instead, the U.S. House is bulling ahead on an ill-considered reform plan, rushing to a vote Thursday on a bill crafted largely by Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., the leading critic in Congress of the Endangered Species Act. The act is "broken," Pombo says, noting that only 10 of roughly 1,300 species have recovered enough to be removed from federal protections. But ... at least all but a handful of them still exist. Only nine species have gone extinct since the act was adopted in 1973. Either way, Pombo's bill is ... ultimately ... about reducing the power of federal wildlife agencies and lifting the burden of species protections from private landowners and those who log, mine and drill in public lands. Pombo and other co-sponsors of the House bill, including Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., look at the existing law and see red tape, disputed science, unfair burdens on landowners and slow, imperious federal wildlife agencies. ... the House bill seeks to fix them by cutting into the heart of the act. Instead of targeted incentives to fairly compensate landowners who protect wildlife, the House bill would allow landowners to demand massive payments for lost profits from forgone uses of their land. Such a law would encourage developers to go looking for environmentally sensitive areas to propose projects and seek compensation. The bill also would ban wildlife agencies from designating "critical habitat," lands considered crucial to the recovery of the species. At least one major study has shown that endangered species with protected habitat are more than twice as likely to be recovering as species without it. Walden's views ... understandably hardened during the Klamath crisis in 2000, when irrigation water was abruptly cut off to protect endangered suckers. Anger from the Klamath incident is still driving debate over the act, even though it is hard to look at the Klamath Basin today and see a triumph of species protection over property rights. The ... Pombo bill ... is certain to pass in the Republican-controlled House. It will then fall to the Senate to negotiate a more careful reform of the Endangered Species Act, one that holds true to the act's original intent, preventing human development from jeopardizing species.

This editorial from Japan provides contrasting view to that of the House majority:

Flight of the storks, asahi.com:  The release into the wild on Saturday of five Oriental white storks captured our imagination. The birds, designated by the government as special natural treasures, soared into the sky in a most impressive fashion. The last wild one of the birds died in Japan 34 years ago. But thanks to an artificial breeding program in Toyooka, Hyogo Prefecture, these graceful birds are returning to our environment. It is like a dream come true. ... The Oriental white stork is a large migratory bird that is distinguished by its white body, black wings and a thick beak. In the Edo Era (1603-1867), these storks inhabited many parts of Japan. In their heyday before World War II, about 100 storks lived in and around Toyooka. But the birds began disappearing in the era of rapid economic growth. This was because the natural environment underwent a drastic change in the postwar period. Pine groves, where the birds nest, were destroyed. Loach and frogs, on which the storks fed, vanished when farmers began draining excess water in their paddy fields early in summer or just before harvest time in the fall. Agricultural chemicals used by farmers also affected the birds' breeding ability. Returning artificially bred storks into the wild required not only advanced breeding technology but also a reinvigorated natural environment. Farmers had to abandon intensive farming methods that relied on agricultural chemicals and fertilizers to produce high annual crop yields. They even had to ensure there was water in their fallow paddy fields in winter to sustain all living creatures. Rivers also had to be cleaned and natural woodlands near populated areas had to be managed properly. Power transmission lines had to be buried underground. All these efforts require the willing participation of local inhabitants.

Some people worried that the storks would harm the rice crop. But this mind-set gradually reversed itself as people began to place greater stock in food safety and agricultural products that are free of chemicals. The rice paddies where storks feed offered proof that farmers valued the natural environment. ... The only downside might be that harvests are slightly smaller. There was even a move to cultivate rice as from farmland that welcomed back the storks. We applaud this move and think it should be emulated around the country-assuming that storks will settle all over the land. ... We believe that municipalities across the country should take a leaf out of Toyooka's book and adopt similar preservation methods to create a natural environment that is also comfortable to humans. If the five storks that flew off into the wild can adapt themselves to their new environment and pair off, we may see juvenile storks leave their nest early next summer. It is said that it takes several generations for such breeding programs to become totally successful. We truly hope that such persistent efforts will bear fruit. Storks travel far. They may appear in the area where you live. If they do, please don't disturb them. We hope you will enjoy just having them in the neighborhood.

    Posted by on Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 01:20 AM in Economics, Environment, Policy | Permalink  TrackBack (0)  Comments (8)


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