California Congressman proposes expiration date for protecting rare species

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Rep. Baca blames ESA for economic woes

WASHINGTON (03/16/2011) -

Rep. Joe Baca of San Bernardino County, Calif., introduced a bill (H.R. 1042) on March 11 that would set an arbitrary expiration date of 15 years for protecting rare, hard-to-study endangered species. Baca uses the scarcity of one species, the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly, as an excuse for rewriting parts of the Endangered Species Act.

The following is a statement from Rodger Schlickeisen, president of Defenders of Wildlife:

“The Delhi Sands flower-loving fly may not be as charismatic as Mr. Baca, but it is important nonetheless. This species does not exist anywhere else in the world, and it has lost nearly all of its limited habitat to development, mining and dumping. It also plays a vital role as a native pollinator at a time when pollinators globally are disappearing—a situation that puts our food supply and economy at risk. All of us, including Mr. Baca, need to remind ourselves that it’s called a ‘web of life’ for a reason, and if one starts pulling threads that web can unravel to the detriment of all.

“Mr. Baca seems to have purposefully chosen a particularly uncharismatic species to use as a stalking-horse to promote his real goal, which is to weaken this country’s commitment to saving other life forms. Thus, the impact of this legislation extends far beyond this particular species by putting an unrealistic deadline of 15 years on Endangered Species Act protections unless substantial population increases occur. Our nation’s commitment to protecting imperiled plants and animals shouldn’t expire simply because some arbitrary period of time has run out. Setting a 15-year time limit would only discourage the kind of long-term planning needed to bring a species back from the brink of extinction, and doom to extinction those species – which is probably most of those that become endangered – whose recovery is predicted to take longer than that.

“If Congress starts making piecemeal changes to the Endangered Species Act, it is pretty clear that it will destroy the Act and any serious effort to save other life forms. We’ve already seen attacks on ESA-protected gray wolves, Pacific salmon and the California’s Bay Delta. This latest assault on the ESA, if successful, will only embolden the enemies of conservation, and it must be defeated.

“There are already provisions in the ESA whereby officials can decide to not provide or end federal protection for a species facing extinction. They are regarded as involving such heavy moral considerations that the committee that makes the decision has long been popularly referred to as ‘the God Squad.’  In that sense, Mr. Baca is proposing with one fell swoop to play God himself for untold numbers of species in the future.  Aside from the sheer audacity of it, the hubris is awe inspiring. He and his co-sponsors should be ashamed of themselves.”

Background:

Contrary to Mr. Baca’s claims that there is “substantial evidence” that the flower-loving fly is extinct, the latest status review from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that the species has been detected in many annual surveys, albeit at low numbers. The Service believes that enough habitat remains to support the long-term conservation of the animal.

The flower-loving fly is endemic to the Delhi Sands formation of Southern California, a unique inland dune, most of which has already been lost to development. Adult flies remain dormant for most of the year and only emerge for a few weeks in late summer, making it difficult to monitor their population numbers.

Global declines in pollinator species pose a significant threat to our food supply and economy. Insects pollinate 40 U.S. commercial crops, a service valued at over $30 billion per year.

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Links:

Read the text of H.R. 1042

Read Rep. Baca’s press release regarding H.R. 1042

Read the latest poll results from Harris Interactive, showing strong support for upholding the Endangered Species Act and making wildlife decisions based on science, not politics

Read this story in the San Bernardino County Press-Enterprise about the 365-acre strip mall planned for the remaining sliver of unique desert habitat that the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly calls home

Read the 5-year status review of the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Contact(s):

John Motsinger, (202) 772-0288

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