ESA Under Attack

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House Flood Control Hearing Today

(04/10/1997) - Washington, D.C. - The House Resources Committee today held a hearing on a bill introduced by Representatives Richard Pombo (R-CA 11th) and Wally Herger (R-CA 2nd) that conservationists warn could undermine the very intention of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) of 1973. H.R. 478 would provide a blanket waiver from certain ESA protections for almost any activity associated with flood control.

Defenders of Wildlife President Rodger Schlickeisen said, "This bill clearly has nothing to do with saving property or lives. It is merely another attempt by opponents of the ESA in Congress to weaken protections for threatened and endangered species."

The proposed legislation attempts to exempt from ESA regulations the building, operating, maintaining, or repairing of all dams, levees, canals, and any associated activities. Introduced by Pombo and Herger in an apparent response to the recent flooding in California, the legislation fails to take into account the actual cause of the floods or the provisions already in the ESA that protect against potential destruction or harm in disaster areas.

The ESA contains emergency provisions that allow for replacement and repair of public facilities in declared disaster areas. (More) After the recent flooding in California, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a policy statement authorizing landowners to repair flood control structures needed to save lives and property without having to obtain review or permission from the agency.

Congressman Pombo has repeatedly blamed the flooding in California on the ESA, citing presumed cases where protecting "bugs and rodents like the Elderberry `Beatle'" have supposedly created the flooding problems in the state. However, Defenders' legislative counsel Mike Senatore says that Rep. Pombo disregards the fact that flood control experts have repeatedly stated that the current situation in California has been caused by the result of too much water and a degraded and outdated levee system- having nothing to do with the ESA or any animals protected under its provisions.

"This legislation will eliminate vital protections for many endangered species, but will do absolutely nothing to prevent flooding disasters from occurring again in the future. This is simply a planned, premeditated attack on the ESA. Congressman Pombo knows that open and direct attacks on the ESA are very unpopular with the American public, so he obviously will resort to any sly method necessary to accomplish his agenda," Senatore warns

Senatore noted that just a few of the threatened or endangered species that would be severely impacted by such legislation as H.R. 478 include the Chinook salmon, the Louisiana black bear, the Colorado squawfish, and the Southwestern willow flycatcher

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Contact(s):

Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270

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