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Two Sides Fight Endangered Species Act Changes*

by Brendan Coyne

*A correction was appended to this news brief after initial publication.

Sept. 20, 2005 – A bi-partisan-backed bill touted as making wildlife management more effective while strengthening property protections does neither, argue groups in both the environmentalist and "property rights" camps.

An early, leaked draft of the legislation introduced in the US House of Representatives provoked outcry from environmental groups. Yesterday a quartet of members of congress from California introduced a new version of the Threatened and Endangered and Species Recovery Act of 2005 (TESRA), prompting libertarian, conservative and conservation organizations to step up the campaign to kill it.

Environmentalists say the bill will undermine the Endangered Species Act, landmark legislation aimed at preventing extinction and recovering threatened species. The lead sponsor of TESRA, Representative Richard Pombo, has been angling to undo many of the Endangered Species Act’s protections since arriving in Congress.

The Sierra Club last week said TESRA would "cripple" efforts to preserve and reintroduce threatened and endangered species.

"It sets principles of conservation that have been around since Theodore Roosevelt was President on their head and turns back the clock to a time when the loss of healthy fish and wildlife populations was considered a reasonable cost of doing business," the Sierra Club said in a press statement.

Yesterday, Defenders of Wildlife warned that the measure removes a number of federally enforced protections and would "punch loopholes in the law on behalf of greedy developers, oil companies and other special interests."

In a letter to Pombo last week, a coalition of over 80 conservative organizations claiming the existing endangered species rules have caused "suffering" to land owners, charged that TESRA would further eviscerate private property privileges they consider rights.

The groups appealed to public outrage over the momentous Supreme Court land-use case Kelo v City of New London, which cleared the way for New London, Connecticut to invoke "eminent domain" authority in order to force people to sell their property to private developers looking to craft a new waterfront for the aging town. However, environmental laws in existing legislation, which the groups’ letter complains are wrongly upheld in the proposed reform bill, are intended to protect land from private development, not seize it for the benefit of developers.

According to an analysis of the earlier version of the bill conducted by the conservative National Center for Public Policy Research, TESRA "would place endangered species at greater risk and would give federal officials even wider powers to violate property rights."

The bill is scheduled for floor hearings and the Sierra Club expects it could be voted on as early as next week.


Minor Change:

In the original version of this article, the representatives who introduced the bill were mistakenly referred to as senators..

 | Change Posted September 21, 2005 at 19:47 PM EST

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Brendan Coyne is a contributing journalist.

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