For several years we have been saying the Endangered Species Act is in need of a major overhaul. This week U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., announced the creation of a working group whose research could lead to such reform.
It’s about time.
We are pretty sure that when the act took root nearly half a century ago its intent was to save significant species from extinction, not maintain healthy numbers of sub-populations of vermin.
The first endangered species list identified 78 mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Today, the list has grown well past 2,000 creatures, including the sowbug rice rat, the snake skin hunter slug and at least three kinds of earthworms.
Do all of these creatures deserve to live? Yes, as do the estimated 8.7 million other species on the planet. According to the science journal Nature, about 90 percent of them haven’t even been discovered yet, let alone given a name or official government status.
But the problem isn’t the species themselves, it’s the faulty theory that our planet is made up of static environments. The current mindset is aimed at restoring whatever habitat existed in the near past to its prior state. For example, the experts now say we have too many juniper and pinyon pine trees and not enough sagebrush, so they are tearing out trees that no tree-hugger wants to hug.
The result is that just about any excuse can be found for blocking activity on undeveloped land. Our local sage grouse, who numbers in the hundred-thousands and is still being legally hunted, is an example of how the act is being used by fringe environmental groups that oppose public lands grazing. The impact on economic activity such as oil drilling and renewable energy development is already being felt.
One of the issues the new group will look at is whether litigation is driving the act.
“During a time when Nevada at the local, state, and federal levels is so heavily focused on preventing the listing of the sage grouse as endangered, I am grateful House Leadership selected me to participate in the ESA Working Group along with members from across the country,” Amodei said in Thursday’s announcement. “It is my hope this forum will help enable me to further convey the negative impact the looming sage grouse listing would have on Nevada and the West, as well as to identify tools to prevent it.”
The Endangered Species Act hasn’t been updated since 1988. The new ESA Working Group intends to examine the law from all angles, holding a series of events, forums and hearings to determine how well it is working and how it could be updated. Elko has been the site of such hearings in the past, and we expect to be included in the future.
Critical species can survive without regulatory overkill. We wish Amodei and the 12 other Republican congressmen in the group success at restoring direction to this law and preventing its abuse.