[env-trinity] Species act changes could cost taxpayers

Josh Allen jallen at trinitycounty.org
Mon Oct 3 09:26:29 PDT 2005

Species act changes could cost taxpayers



By James W. Brosnan <mailto:brosnanj at shns.com> 
Scripps Howard News Service
September 30, 2005

WASHINGTON - Weakening the Endangered Species Act could actually cost
taxpayers more money, the government's bean counters say. 

That's because the bill changing the act, passed 229-193 by the House on
Thursday, contains an expensive new entitlement requiring the U.S. Fish
and Wildlife Service to pay farmers, ranchers, developers and other
landowners to not destroy the habitat of endangered species. 

The Congressional Budget Office says spending under the new bill could
nearly double the price tag for enforcing the act, to more than $600
million a year. 

The White House Office of Management and Budget said the Bush
administration supports the bill but also warned that "the new
conservation aid program for private property owners provides little
discretion to federal agencies and could result in a significant
budgetary impact." 

The measure passed by the House eliminates the ability of the government
to order private property owners to protect habitat for endangered

Instead, the Fish and Wildlife Service would have to develop a recovery
plan for endangered species. 

If the plan affects private property, the service would have to pay the
property owner for the lost value of the land. 

"If the government takes your land, they should pay for it," said Rep.
Heather Wilson. 

The Albuquerque Republican said she voted for the bill because of her
experience when water earmarked for future use by the city of
Albuquerque was going to be diverted to protect the silvery minnow. 

Congress passed a measure to require that the city be compensated for
any lost water. 

Rep. Steve Pearce, a Hobbs Republican, also voted for the bill. 

But Rep. Tom Udall was one of the leading opponents on the floor. The
Santa Fe Democrat said the act needs reform but that the House bill is
"an abomination" and a "huge giveaway to developers." 

Some critics said saving endangered species has endangered humans. 

Rep. Wally Herger, a Northern California Republican, blamed the collapse
of a levee in his district on trees left growing on the levee as shelter
for the valley elderberry longhorn beetle. 

Another California Republican, Rep. David Dreier, said homeowners in
wildfire-prone Riverside County were advised that cutting down brush for
firebreaks would harm the Stephen's kangaroo rat. 

Supporters of the act were equally emotive. 

West Virginia Democrat Nick Rahall cited Noah's ark and said he feared
the changes in the law would "result in more extinctions of species that
God has placed in our care." 

Washington State Democrat Jay Inslee brought an enlarged photo of the
bald eagle to the House floor. "What is a fish without a river? What is
a bird without a tree to nest in," Inslee said. "This isn't
modernization of the act. It's euthanasia of the act." 

The bill now goes to the Senate, where the odds of passage in its
current form are steep. 


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