[env-trinity] Endangered Species Act
bwl3 at comcast.net
Thu Feb 23 12:19:17 PST 2006
ENDANGERED SPECIES ACT:
Report a boost for Pombo's ESA goals
Stockton Record - 2/23/06
By Hank Shaw, Capitol Bureau Chief
SACRAMENTO - Two critical concepts in Tracy Rep. Richard Pombo's proposed
overhaul of the federal Endangered Species Act should guide the U.S.
Senate's attempts to reform the 23-year-old law, according to the initial
findings of a group senators commissioned to help them prepare their
But the group failed to find a path through the debate's thorniest thicket:
How to reform the ESA's "critical habitat" provision, an often unwieldy tool
intended to give threatened critters a place to live and multiply.
Overhauling the ESA is no small matter for San Joaquin County, the Delta and
the Mother Lode, where about a dozen endangered plants and animals live,
including the San Joaquin kit fox, the Delta smelt, the red-legged frog and
the riparian brush rabbit.
Congress is closer to wholesale reform of the Endangered Species Act than it
has been in years, and Pombo has been the driving force from the House of
He wrestled a bill through the House last year with the help of Rep. Dennis
Cardoza, a Merced County Democrat whose district includes Stockton. The
legislation now awaits action in the Senate.
Debate stalled, however, because many senators wanted to hear what an
eclectic group of environmentalists, industry officials, legal experts and
scholars called the Keystone Group had to say about reform.
Late last week the group sent a letter to six key senators endorsing Pombo's
emphasis on providing incentives for the owners of private land - where 80
percent of endangered species live - to stop shooting, spraying, shoveling
over and shutting up about the critters on their property.
Among its recommendations, the Keystone Group favors an increase in programs
such as the Conservation Reserve Program, which is widely used in other
Western states to expand habitat for game animals such as sharptail grouse
and mule deer.
Other possible incentives could come as tax breaks for landowners who
actively improve their land to support endangered plants or animals. Sens.
Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., already have sponsored
The group did not discuss Pombo's proposal, which would reimburse landowners
for the lost value of property tied up through Endangered Species Act
Critics such as the Defenders of Wildlife say doing this would spark a
taxpayer-funded giveaway. Pombo counters with a Congressional Budget Office
estimate that the incentive will cost taxpayers only about $10 million a
"It cuts both ways, to be honest with you," Pombo said of the report. "I'd
half-hoped they'd come out with specific language (for legislation), but I
think they found out what I did over 13 years: This isn't easy."
The Keystone Group letter also backed Pombo's desire to switch "critical
habitat," which can be haphazardly drawn by overworked federal agents, to a
more thoughtful "recovery plan" designed to do what it takes to lift a
species from the brink of extinction.
But how to do that - environmentalists and property-rights advocates are
deeply divided - could scotch the whole reform effort in an election year.
Additionally, Eastern politicians tend to be hesitant about tinkering with
the ESA, which is sacrosanct among even many Republicans there.
Among them is Rhode Island Sen. Lincoln Chafee, chairman of the Environment
and Public Works Fisheries, Wildlife and Water Subcommittee and the senator
who commissioned the Keystone Group. Chafee faces a tough election road
Chafee has been hoping to craft what he sees as a more moderate bill than
Pombo's, which Chafee says does not adequately designate recovery habitat
and lacks provisions to ensure compliance.
Pombo says he wants moderates such as Chafee and California Sen. Dianne
Feinstein on board with whatever emerges from the Senate.
"She has to be part of it," he said. "Now I'm sure she'll have different
ideas - I'm not saying my bill is perfect. If they find a better way to do
this, put it in the legislation."
Pombo's bottom line is in line with the Keystone findings: Refocus the ESA
to recovery of a species, increase its funding to do that and give them an
incentive to help save threatened plants and animals.
But he'll need a filibuster-proof 60 senators with him. Pombo fully expects
someone to block any reform effort unless it has such broad support. And he
says he's willing to compromise to get there.
"It's not going to be everything I want. I know that," Pombo said. "What we
have to do is put together the coalition that gets us to 60."
The Senate is expected to begin debate on the legislation next month.
Chair, Friends of Trinity River
Advisor, California Trout, Inc
PO Box 2327
Mill Valley, CA 94942-2327
415 383 4810 ph
415 383 9562 fx
bwl3 at comcast.net
bleydecker at stanfordalumni.org
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