Assault on Endangered Species Act: Draft Legislation Sides With Developers Over Majority of Americans

Despite Americans Strong Support for Act that Saved the Bald Eagle, Resource Committee Chairman Crafting Loopholes that are a Developers Dream

(07/06/2005) - WASHINGTON – Draft legislation prepared by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Cal.) would severely undermine the Endangered Species Act (ESA) and punch loopholes in the law on behalf of oil companies, large-scale developers, timber companies, mining corporations, and other special interests. If these provisions were in place in recent years, recovery of animals like the bald eagle, American alligator, and peregrine falcon would have been extremely difficult if not impossible.

"We are stunned by just how bad Rep. Pombo’s draft bill is," said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife. "The bill contains at least seven proposals each of which would cripple the federal effort to help endangered species. It also creates a whole new series of loopholes that enable oil companies, large-scale developers, timber companies, mining corporations, and other special interests to dodge the Act’s protections. The bill runs counter to the very intent of the Endangered Species Act which was put in place to ensure that human activity does not cause wildlife to go extinct."

Jamie Rappaport Clark, former Director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and now Executive Vice President of Defenders, said, "This is a potentially disastrous bill. Given Mr. Pombo’s past statements about trying to make the Act work better, it’s extremely disappointing to see a draft bill that does so much to eliminate opportunities for species recovery."

An analysis of the draft bill by Defenders of Wildlife pointed to the following key problems:

  • It abandons the national commitment to bringing declining species back from the brink of extinction and recovering them to the point where they no longer need the Act’s protection.
  • It sharply diminishes habitat protections for endangered and threatened species; the only habitat that would be required to be protected is the habitat that allows the species to barely survive.
  • It allows federal agencies to ignore their responsibility to protect threatened and endangered species. It exempts all federal agencies from the Act’s requirement that they consult with wildlife experts to assess the damage potential projects may cause endangered species.
  • It changes the definition of what constitutes an endangered species, choosing a very unscientific definition that says a species is endangered only if its survival is threatened in its current remaining occupied habitat.
  • It opens a giant loophole that allows legal appeals during every step of the endangered species conservation process. Irresponsible developers, timber and mining interests and other resource exploiters would be able to tie the process into knots and avoid any meaningful implementation and enforcement.
  • It sets the year 2015 as the expiration date for the Endangered Species Act, for the first time setting a timetable for the end of federal endangered species conservation efforts.
  • It includes an onerous "takings" provision which requires the federal government to pay landowners for the costs of complying with the law, a terrible precedent to set with regard to environmental protections.

"The Act in place today has been wildly successful at preventing the extinction of many magnificent creatures. Since 1973, only nine out of the 1800 animals protected by the Act have been declared extinct. With this bill, Rep. Pombo has turned his back on this success and effectively eliminated any meaningful federal effort to save endangered species," Schlickeisen said.

For more information and detailed analysis of the Pombo bill and the Endangered Species Act, click here.


Defenders of Wildlife is a leading nonprofit conservation organization recognized as one of the nation's most progressive advocates for wildlife and its habitat. With more than 490,000 members and supporters, Defenders of Wildlife is an effective leader on endangered species issues.



Brad DeVries, (202) 772-0237
William Lutz, (202) 772-0269