Sen. Kempthorne To Introduce Bill To Gut The Endangered Species Act

(10/26/1995) - Washington, D.C. -- After reviewing a draft outline for endangered species legislation to be introduced today by Sen. Dirk Kempthorne (R-ID), conservationists say the bad news for the Endangered Species Act just got worse.

Rodger Schlickeisen, President of Defenders of Wildlife, said, "The Senate claims to be the rational arm of Congress but Kempthorne's bill is as destructive as Rep. Don Young's (R-AK) extinction bill."

According to William Snape, Legal Director for Defenders, it seems at this point that Sen. Kempthorne's bill will be as bad as that introduced by Sen. Slade Gorton (R-WA). Snape said, "Gorton has admitted that industry lobbyists wrote his bill and Kempthorne's bill is nearly identical to Gorton's. It doesn't take a political scientist to figure out what is going on."

As an example of the outline's proposals, the bill includes a provision allowing the Secretary of the Interior to determine "conservation objectives" for each species when it is listed. This provision is taken directly from both the Gorton bill (S.768) and the Young/Pombo bill (H.R. 2275), and Snape says it "allows a political appointee to play god by choosing either recovery or extinction for a species. Kempthorne's bill would also remove protections for species like the bald eagle and grizzly bear."

Kempthorne's bill, moreover, would also allow federal agencies, such as the Forest Service or the Army Corps of Engineers, to rely solely on their internal assessments when judging whether their projects would jeopardize an endangered species. Yet, under the current ESA, more than 99.5 percent of all consultations with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allow agency actions to continue. Environmental groups insist that government actions should not lead to the extinction of wildlife species.

According to Snape, "It would be against the agency's self- interest to ever find that forest cutting or dam building could injure a species, so it never would. Letting a federal agency do its own consultations instead of requiring it to consult with the experts at U.S Fish and Wildlife Service is like letting the fox guard the henhouse."



Cat Lazaroff, (202) 772-3270