[env-trinity] Fishermen, Farmers Protest Pombos Attack On ESA
danielbacher at hotmail.com
Wed Sep 28 11:20:21 PDT 2005
Fishermen, Farmers Protest Pombos Attack On ESA
by Dan Bacher
Former Congressman Pete McCloskey and representatives of fishing, farming
and environmental organizations gathered in front of Congressman Richard
Pombos office in Stockton on September 26 to deliver petitions with
thousands of signatures protesting Pombos 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 Pombos 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 nations 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
Since going to Washington, Congressman Pombos 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
Pombos 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. Its 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, its largely attributable to political cowardice to a failure to
aggressively implement the Acts explicit requirements.
Zeke Grader, executive director of the Pacific Coast Federation of
Fishermens 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 runs 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
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 wasnt 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 Pombos reform
legislation simply guts the law and paves the way for more rampant,
unsustainable development at the expense of fish.
Among the ways that Pombos 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 1960s and 1970s to clean up and restore the
The provision repealing protections from DDT and other protections is
particularly appalling, he said. The ESA protects the Web of Life that is
Americas 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.
Pombos 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. Im
tempted to move back to Pleasanton and taken Pombo on!
Other individuals who spoke out against Pombos 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
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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