Action alert! The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was put into effect in 1973 to protect endangered species, threatened species, and critical habitat for these animals. Currently under the ESA, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service oversees the listing and protection of all terrestrial animals and plants as well as freshwater fish and the National Marine Fisheries Service oversees marine fish and wildlife.

The following criteria is used to evaluate if a species should be listed on the act:

  • Has a large percentage of the species vital habitat been degraded or destroyed?
  • Has the species been over-consumed by commercial, recreational, scientific or educational uses
  • Is the species threatened by disease or predation?
  • Do current regulations or legislation inadequately protect the species?
  • Are there other man-made factors that threaten the long-term survival of the species?

A new bill, the Endangered Species Management Self-Determination Act, outlines some majors changes to the original ESA.

Here’s what it would do, if passed:

  • Turn over control of land-use decisions to state governments, instead of the federal government
  • Require approval of a joint congressional resolution for any new species to be added to the federal endangered species
  • All added species would be automatically de-listed after five years – they would then have to wait until Congress passed a joint resolution renewing their protections under the Act for another five years.
  • Entitle any private property owner to compensation totaling 150 percent of fair market value if the federal statute diminishes the value of their land by 50 percent or more.

Action is needed now to stall this bill because it would (1) give far too much regulatory power to state governments and (2) would place the interests of businesses over conservation initiatives, potentially hampering protection of endangered species. In terms of land use, the bill would allow states to open up protected wildlife areas to land developers, giving businesses the a-okay to destroy habitats. It could also contribute directly to the disappearance of endangered and threatened species since if a conservation decision is not met at the end of the proposed five year de-listing period, then that’s that for these species — no protection would be awarded to them.

States should have their own conservation laws, of course, and many do a good job with them, but the way this particular bill is worded would provide too many loopholes and could end up damaging years of conservation work.

Take action

So here’s what you can do to stop the Endangered Species Self-Management Act in its tracks: contact your senators and urge them to say “no” to this bill if it ever comes to a floor vote. And if either of your senators are a part of the Senate and Environmental Works committee (where the bill currently sits), then be sure to ask them to vote “no” when this bill is put up for a committee vote. Click here to find your senators’ contact information. Go ahead, unleash your political monster!

Image Source: Stephanie / Flickr