Our View: Species Act needs overhaul

Friday , March 28, 2014 - 12:13 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

Congressional Republicans, including Utah Rep. Rob Bishop, are correct in calling for an overhaul to the Endangered Species Act. The law, enacted 40 years ago, has lost effectiveness as its original intent — protecting species and getting them delisted — is not happening much.

In fact, only 2 percent of species declared protected by the law have ever been delisted from that status. That simply is not a successful percentage, given the billions and billions of dollars that have been spent since the law was enacted in December 1973.

We agree with Rep. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., who told the Associated Press, “The biggest problem is that the Endangered Species Act is not recovering species. The way the act was written, there is more of an effort to list (species as endangered or threatened) than to delist.”

While supporters of the law are correct that it has helped to prevent extinction of many species, including the bald eagle, American Alligator and the gray whale, Bishop and other Republicans are not calling for an end to the Endangered Species Act. What they want are targeted reforms that place a greater emphasis on the law’s intent, which is getting endangered species delisted. Unfortunately, the Act has been used as a tool of litigation from special interests. And it has been used to limit states’ authority in dealing with species that are deemed threatened.

It won’t be easy to change these reforms. Too many in Congress are opposed for success of it this year. But the effort should continue. Simple but effective reforms, such as strong economic impact studies, more autonomy for states, more rights for landowners, litigation reform, and more emphasis on working to get species delisted are worthy goals. They are steps to make sure that the money spent on the Endangered Species Act accomplishes its main goal, protecting endangered species until they can be delisted. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the goal.

Sign up for e-mail news updates.