Defenders Praises Bipartisan Effort To Reauthorize Endangered Species Act

(07/30/1997) - Washington, D.C. -- Conservationists today hailed bipartisan legislation to be introduced tomorrow by Rep.George Miller (D-CA) as "the first positive, proactive piece of proposed endangered species legislation since the 103rd Congress." Defenders of Wildlife says the bill is significant because it places new emphasis on recovery of species and remedies serious scientific and procedural deficiencies in current Administration policies while at the same time providing assistance for landowners.

Miller, ranking member of the House Resources Committee, announced today that he will be joined in introducing legislation to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act (ESA) by cosponsors from both parties. By Wednesday afternoon, the number of original cosponsors lining up behind his Endangered Species Recovery Act was approaching forty, including Republicans as well as Democrats.

Defenders' President Rodger Schlickeisen declared, "This legislation expresses the American people's continued support for strong federal protection of endangered species despite recent efforts by congressional extremists to weaken the ESA. It is the first positive, proactive piece of proposed endangered species legislation since the 103rd Congress. This proposal is in sharp contrast to the draft ESA reauthorization bill proposed by Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID)."

Schlickeisen emphasized that, "The Endangered Species Recovery Act is common-sense, bipartisan legislation that will improve the way the ESA works for endangered species and American citizens, and it will ensure that our nation's biological resources are conserved for our children and future generations."

The Endangered Species Recovery Act (ESRA) is intended to promote the recovery of listed species and the ecosystems upon which they depend, prevent additional species from becoming endangered, and provide landowners with incentives to voluntarily participate in species' conservation efforts. The bill will accomplish these goals by requiring federal agencies to implement species recovery plans, requiring Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs) to be consistent with the recovery of listed species, providing incentives for state and local governments to undertake ecosystem-level planning, encouraging federal agencies to conserve declining species before they become listed, and by providing tax incentives and planning assurances to private landowners.

Conservationists say the bill also remedies serious deficiencies in current Clinton Administration policies regarding the conservation of endangered species on private lands. The "No Surprises" Policy, in particular, has been sharply criticized by scientists and the conservation community for undermining the recovery of endangered species. ESRA proposes a novel public-private funding mechanism to address the inherent surprises in managing for imperiled species of wildlife.

"ESRA reflects the wisdom of the National Academy of Sciences, whose 1995 recommendations on the ESA have been incorporated into this bill. The message is that sound ecological practices are good economics," said Schlickeisen.

ESRA has already been endorsed by more than 260 national, regional and local environmental, religious, sporting and business groups.

Defenders, a nonprofit conservation group with more than 200,000 members and supporters is noted for its leadership on endangered species issues. The organization credited the ESA for preventing the extinction of many species and for many successful reintroductions of endangered species, including the reintroduction of the gray wolf into Yellowstone National Park and central Idaho in 1995-96. Examples of how ESRA would benefit other endangered species include: lynx (by ensuring science-based listing decisions); Sonoran pronghorn (establishing scientific criteria for the development of recovery plans); Piping plover (eliminating loopholes used to avoid the designation of critical habitat); Colorado River fish and birds (improving section 7 consultation to address adverse impacts to species' recovery); and jaguar (requiring science-based HCPs).



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270