[env-trinity] Fishermen, Farmers Protest Pombos Attack On ESA

Daniel Bacher danielbacher at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 28 11:20:21 PDT 2005

Fishermen, Farmers Protest Pombo’s Attack On ESA

by Dan Bacher

Former Congressman Pete McCloskey and representatives of fishing, farming 
and environmental organizations gathered in front of Congressman Richard 
Pombo’s office in Stockton on September 26 to deliver petitions with 
thousands of signatures protesting Pombo’s campaign to gut the Endangered 
Species Act, a law that has served as the last resort to protect salmon, 
steelhead and other fish on the brink of extinction.

The broad ranging coalition said it opposes Pombo’s HR 3854, deceptively 
titled “the Threatened And Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2004,” because 
it would cut “large holes” in the safety net that the ESA provides for fish, 
wildlife and plants and fish on the brink of extinction. The law would 
significantly weaken protections for our nation’s fish and wildlife and 
their habitat – and for California fish and wildlife in particular.

“The ‘Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act has the same 
intellectual candor as the Healthy Forest Act that increased logging and the 
Clean Skies Act that increased air pollution,” said Bill Jennings, chairman 
of the California Sportfishing Protection Alliance. “It cares not for 
endangered species nor promotes their recovery. It will certainly facilitate 
their demise.”

Since going to Washington, Congressman Pombo’s main goal has been to destroy 
the Endangered Species Act. A scion of a wealthy developer family, Pombo, 
once blasted supporters of fish and wildlife restoration as the “eco-federal 
conspiracy of crypto-communist environmental regulations makers,” according 
to Jennings.

Pombo’s bill, introduced into the Resources Committee on September 19, is 
being cosponsored by Reps. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Greg Walden (R-OR) and 
George Radanovich (R-CA). The controversial bill is being rushed through 
Congress with little debate – or input from constituents. After passing 
through the Resources Committee, chaired by Pombo, the bill could go the 
House Floor as early as this week.

According to Pombo, the bill “fixes the long-outstanding problems of the 
Endangered Species Act (ESA) by focusing on species recovery, providing 
incentives, increasing openness and accountability, strengthening scientific 
standards, creating bigger roles for state and local governments, protecting 
private property owners and eliminating dysfunctional critical habitat 

"After three decades of implementation, the ESA has only recovered 10 of the 
roughly 1,300 species on its list," said Pombo. "What it has done instead is 
create conflict, bureaucracy and rampant litigation. It’s time to do 

However Jennings disagreed strongly with Pombo, noting that of 1800 listed 
species, only 9 have been extirpated. Meanwhile, hundreds of species 
continue to survive only because of the act.

“One only has to look at the Delta, where remnant populations of Delta smelt 
and winter-run chinook salmon survive only because of the Act,” he said. 
“The few steelhead that return to the Calaveras River do so under the 
protection of the Act. If endangered species have failed to achieve full 
recovery, it’s largely attributable to political cowardice – to a failure to 
aggressively implement the Act’s explicit requirements.”

Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of 
Fishermen’s Associations, pointed out how the ESA, even with all of its 
bureaucracy, has kept the commercial salmon fleet in business. “Our 
membership depends on having harvestable populations of fish and the ESA has 
been an essential part of sustaining fish populations,” he stated.

Grader cited the restoration efforts by the state and federal governments 
and fishing groups to recover the winter run chinook, a species that 
plummeted from nearly 120,000 spawning adults in 1969 to only 191 fish in 
1990. The winter run’s listing under the ESA resulted in the construction of 
a temperature control device at Shasta Dam, screening of irrigation pumps, 
opening of the Red Bluff Diversion Dam to fish passage during peak spawning 
periods and restrictions on pumping by the state and federal governments in 
the Delta.

“We still have a long way to go, but winter run numbers now range from 6,000 
to 10,000 fish per year,” said Grader. “The changes we accomplished because 
of the ESA are also beneficial to fall-run chinook populations, the mainstay 
of the Pacific Coast salmon fishery. If it wasn’t for the ESA, our fleet 
would be basically off the water.”

Grader explained that the ESA could use some improvements to strengthen the 
law, such as mandating the adoption of recovery plans, but Pombo’s “reform” 
legislation simply guts the law and paves the way for more rampant, 
unsustainable development at the expense of fish.

Among the ways that Pombo’s bill would attack the ESA is by eliminating 
critical habitat provisions, abandoning the commitment to the recovery of 
endangered species and repealing protections against dangerous pesticides. 
It would require taxpayers to pay developers, oil and gas companies and 
other industries to comply with the law and would politicize the scientific 
decision making process.

In addition, the Pombo bill would allow the Bush and future administrations 
to exempt any federal agency action from the requirement to consult with the 
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service 
before they take any action that could undermine the survival of recovery of 
protected species. Cop

Even more onerously, the bill would place endangered species at risk 
whenever the federal government fails to meet a 180 day deadline for telling 
developers whether their actions would kill or harm and endangered species. 
“If the government misses the deadline, no matter what the reason, 
developers are permanently exempted from the law,” according to the Center 
for Biological Diversity.

According to Pete McCloskey, the bill was one of a series of landmark 
environmental laws, including the Wilderness Act, NEPA, Clean Water and 
Clean Air acts, adopted in the 1960’s and 1970’s to clean up and restore the 
nation’s environment.

“The provision repealing protections from DDT and other protections is 
particularly appalling,” he said. “The ESA protects the Web of Life that is 
America’s Heritage. Without it, we may not be blessed with the American bald 
eagle, the California condor or the Pacific salmon. We have a duty to 
protect Endangered Species and the Act has done that well.”

Pombo’s legislative attack on the ESA has angered McCloskey so much that he 
said he may run against him in the 2006 election. “This is an outrageous 
bill. There should be a Republican opponent to Pombo,” said McCloskey. “ I’m 
tempted to move back to Pleasanton and taken Pombo on!”

Other individuals who spoke out against Pombo’s “extinction bill” include 
Cindy Lashbrook, owner of Living Farms and board member of Community 
Alliance with Family Farms, and Brian Stranko, the Executive Director of 
California Trout.

There is no doubt the ESA needs some fine-tuning after 32 years. However, 
the way to do it is not by gutting the law, but by strengthening and 
improving it. Unless we want to see many more fish kills like those that 
have occurred on the Klamath River and Butte Creek in recent years, we need 
to stop HR 3854 in its tracks.

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