Our View: Endangered Species Act tweaking

Monday , March 31, 2014 - 7:52 PM

Editorial Board, Standard-Examiner

U.S. Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, is correct that the Endangered Species Act could do with a small change in how species are counted. Stewart wants the feds to count species that dwell on both private and public land. Currently, the feds are not tallying species on private lands as well as they are counted on public lands.

Defenders of the fed’s method of counting animals complain that it’s too hard to count animals on private lands, and that the government officials do the best that they can. But that’s a weak excuse for not having accurate counts of animals.

Those who are enforcing the Endangered Species Act have to be diligent and consistent. Animals have to be counted on public and private lands; otherwise the numbers are tainted and subject to dispute.

This is important because the Act, established in 1973, determines which species need recovery. Stewart cites the prairie dog as an example of a species that is being under counted. In a news release, Stewart says, “There are large populations of prairie dogs in yards, parks, cemeteries and fields that will never get counted toward recovery because they don’t live on federal lands.” This type of lax counting “potentially (prevents) healthy and growing species from being removed from the threatened or endangered list,” Stewart added in the news release.

Stewart’s bill has two Utah Republican co-sponsors, Rep. Rob Bishop and Rep. Jason Chaffetz. In today’s divisive political environment, it’s doubtful the bill will be successful. But it’s necessary. The bill does not compromise the goals of the Act to preserve species. It merely makes sure the tallies are correct. As taxpayers, we should embrace that.

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