by Jamie Rappaport Clark, President, Defenders of Wildlife
© Jim Clark
In the iconic movie “Groundhog Day,” comedian Bill Murray wakes up each morning and relives the same day over and over. As the Congressional opponents of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) gear up to try to gut the ESA yet again, it’s beginning to feel like Groundhog Day for our endangered species. I speak from personal experience because I have been in this anti-ESA movie numerous times before.
In 1995, I was working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and was responsible for implementing the ESA. That year, U.S. House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Don Young (R-Alaska) and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) authored a terrible anti-ESA bill that they described as modest and “balanced.” In fact, their “balanced” bill severely weakened every section of the ESA. Fortunately, that bill died because of strong opposition from the Clinton administration and Sen. John Chafee (R-R.I.).
Fast forward to 2005 and run the anti-ESA movie again. Pombo was now the House Natural Resources Committee chairman, and he pushed a sweeping anti-ESA bill through the House, despite valiant opposition from members like Sherry Boehlert (R-N.Y.) and George Miller (D-Calif.) and Norm Dicks (D-Wash.). This time it was up to Sen. Lincoln Chafee (I-R.I.) to follow in his father’s footsteps and help kill the Pombo bill. The staff at Defenders was heavily involved in defeating the Pombo bill, working closely with Boehlert, Chafee, Dicks, Miller and me.
Now forward to 2012 and run the anti-ESA legislative movie for a third time. Yet another House Resources Committee chairman, Doc Hastings (R-Wash.), is beating the drums for ESA “reform” and has announced his intentions to weaken it. Once again, Defenders will make stopping any anti-ESA legislation that emerges our highest priority. Which House Republicans will follow in the footsteps of the Chafees and Boehlert to provide the bipartisan leadership needed to protect this iconic law?