The Endangered Species Act or ESA was passed in 1973 by the 93d U.S Congress. The idea was to protect species at risk of extinction through the powers of legislation in The United States of America. It’s a bill famously contested by Republicans as problematic and this assault is seen by some as long overdue.
In an interview with The Hill on July 2nd 2018, Republican Senator John Barrasso of Wyoming says that it’s simply not enough to ‘put species on life support, we must see them recovered’. Not then, a glowing endorsement but an intelligent argument that suggests the ESA is far from perfect.
Conservationists hit back arguing that the bill has been nowhere near ineffective and this amounts to a total overhaul of a bill that has saved the grizzly bear, bald eagle and grey wolf from extinction. The history of the bill has been that of success, its champions argue.
It would be naïve to believe that the protection of endangered species is the primary motivation for this proposed amendment. Historically, Republicans have been opposed to the bill because it decreases landowners powers ergo overall productivity across America suffers. They are also correct in stating that only 47 out 1of a possible 1652 species have been saved due to the ESA.
Strange then, to hear Democrats from centre to far left paddling the ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it’ argument. Such has been the motto of conservatives from all over the world with regards to many systems that have now become entrenched as part of the status quo.
It is broke, though, argues Barrasso. A worryingly ineffective bill because states are not directly involved in the conservation of endangered species. The amendments proposed would give more power to the individual states and devolve that power to the landowners. No surprises, there.
The senior vice president for the conservation programmes at defenders of wildlife Bob Dreher and Delaware Democrat Tom Carper agree, however that states are as involved as they can be. Their roles are minor and they can only do so much.
Furthermore both agree that it would be reductive to suggest that the number of animals saved due to the ESA is equivalent to its overall value as a piece of legislature.
It raises the question is it worth uprooting such a historic bill to have a swipe at better. And, if it is: are these proposed amendments really environmentally motivated, or just an attempt to boost productivity and profit for landowners?