Members of Congress launch ESA reform effort

American Farm Bureau Federation


In the hope of reforming the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) earlier this year introduced the Sound Science for Endangered Species Act Planning Act of 2003 (H.R. 1662).

The American Farm Bureau Federation-supported bill would require scientific peer review as a prerequisite for most ESA-related actions and set minimum standards for the scientific data needed to proceed with those actions.

Walden said he introduced his bill partly because of the federal government's decision in April 2001 to withhold irrigation water from 1,400 farmers and ranchers in the Klamath Basin in order to protect endangered fish. The National Academy of Sciences later reported that there was "no sound scientific basis" for the government's action.

The peer review that would be needed under Walden's bill is akin to getting a second opinion from a doctor before proceeding with an amputation, Walden said.

"Under the ESA today, they just cut you off at the knees," he said.

Sen. Craig Thomas (R-Wyo.) also has introduced ESA reform legislation. The Endangered Species Listing and Delisting Process Reform Act of 2001 (S. 347) would require that decisions to list species as endangered or threatened are supported by scientific data.

The bill would also require the federal government to hold at least two hearings in each state in which the species proposed for listing is located, including at least one hearing in an affected rural area.

In addition, the Thomas bill would require prompt action by the government to change a species' status when the criteria of a recovery plan have been met. Since the ESA was enacted, less than 20 species have been delisted.


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