GOP Targets Landmark Endangered Species Act for Big Changes
Jan 18, 2017 04:55 PM EST
The Republicans who are in control of Congress and soon the White House are preparing plans to roll back the influence of one of the government's most powerful conservation tools after decades of complaints that it hinders drilling, logging and other similar activities - the Endangered Species Act. GOP lawmakers sponsored dozens of measures over the past eight years aiming at curtailing the landmark law or putting species such as sage grouse and gray wolves out of its reach.
Almost all of them were blocked by lawsuits from environmentalist or the Democrats and the White House, reported AP. The Republicans now, with the ascension of President-elect Donald Trump see an opportunity to advance broad changes to a law they contend has been exploited by wildlife advocates to block economic development.
According to House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop, this has never been used for the rehabilitation of species, adding that the law has been hijacked and that they have missed the entire purpose of the Endangered Species Act.
He then stated that he "would love to invalidate" the law and would need other lawmakers' cooperation.The Endangered Species Act 1973 was ushered through Congress nearly unanimously for stave off extinction of the bald eagle - U.S national symbol. The populations of the eagle have since rebounded and were taken off the threatened and endangered list in 2007.
Other emblematic species such as the wolf has also emerged as a prime example of what critics say is wrong with the current law, as wolf attacks on livestock and have provoked hostility against the law which keeps the animals off-limits to hunting in most states.
Solutions that the Republicans proposed include adopting a cap on how many species can be protected and giving states a greater say in the process as well as placing limits on lawsuits that have been used to maintain protections for some species and force decisions on others. Wildlife advocates are bracing for changes that could make it harder to add species to the protected list and to usher them through to recovery.
Dozens are due for decisions this year, including the Pacific walrus and the North American wolverine, two victims of potential habitat loss due to climate change.More than 1,600 plants and animals in the U.S. are now shielded by the law. Hundreds more are under consideration for protections. Republicans complain that fewer than 70 have recovered and had protections lifted.