Endangered Species Act must survive | AspenTimes.com

Endangered Species Act must survive

Dear Editor: If you contact your member of Congress over just one issue this year, please make it the survival of the Endangered Species Act. For those who live in Pitkin County, our representative is John Salazar. His phone number in Washington is (202) 225-4761. If you live outside of Pitkin County, you can find out who your U.S. representative is by going to http://www.house.gov/writerep/.Dozens of animals and plants that would have gone extinct have been saved by the Endangered Species Act since it was signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon on Dec. 28, 1973. Many more are on the brink, along with the special places they call home. Your phone call can make the difference for well-known animals such as the grizzly bear, polar bear, orca (killer whale), Mexican gray wolf, Mexican spotted owl and California condor. It can also mean the difference between life and death for hundreds of obscure creatures struggling to survive, such as the Chiricahua leopard frog that lives in streams in the desert, the spectacled eider that nests on the Arctic coast, and the coral in the Caribbean along with the many fish that thrive in the architecture of coral reefs.The House Resources Committee will vote this Thursday, Sept. 22, on a bill introduced by the committee chairman, Richard Pombo, R-Calif., that would tear gaping holes in the safety net that is the Endangered Species Act in order to expedite development of the last natural habitats for wildlife in the United States. Eliminates independent federal oversight: The Pombo bill allows the exemption of individual projects and entire categories of actions from independent review and instead substitutes undefined “alternate procedures.” Eliminates critical habitat: The Endangered Species Act requires the designation of mapped-out “critical habitat” areas for all threatened and endangered species. Critical habitat is the only portion of the act which directly protects ecosystems in themselves. Pombo’s bill completely eliminates critical habitat from the Endangered Species Act. Destructive projects proceed by default: The Endangered Species Act currently requires that a destructive project cannot proceed until it is reviewed and approved by government scientists. The review cannot take place unless the agency or corporation proposing the project provides detailed information about the project and its likely effects. Pombo’s bill turns this precautionary process on its head by specifying that destructive projects are allowed to proceed unless government scientists intercede to stop it. Eliminates species protections and up-to-date science: As currently written, the Endangered Species Act provides full protection to each new animal or plant added to the endangered species list. Pombo’s bill allows the Fish and Wildlife Service and Fisheries Service to sign an agreement with individual states prior to a species being listed, which would prohibit new protections for that creature.(Some of the above was excerpted from a letter by Michael J. Robinson of the Center for Biological Diversity.)Delia MaloneAspen