November 3, 1995 in City

Act Keeps Greed From Growing Wild Pro-Esa America’s Natural Resources Are A Shadow Of What They Were.

By The Spokesman-Review

Critics of the Endangered Species Act miss the point when they gripe that concerns for some obscure critter allowed anti-business obstructionists to file an annoying lawsuit.

The act’s value isn’t in the litigation, nor even in the fate of kangaroo rats and Redfish Lake sockeye.

This crucial and therefore controversial law is the canary in the mine. And the current attack on the law should be viewed the way old-time miners would have viewed a memo from the mining company, ordering them to pay no heed if the canaries died.

The point’s not the canaries. It’s the whole habitat. Look at our history. From east to west, we Americans have logged, dammed, overfished, polluted, mined, drilled, spilled, grazed, sprayed, dumped, paved and plowed. And we became, in the process, a nation of well-to-do bellyachers. Just as they did when Republican Teddy Roosevelt created our national forests, industrial barons and their representatives in Congress are calling it an outrage to make them forego a few last clear-cuts while owls or salmon recover and a new generation of trees grows back.

America’s natural resources are a shadow of what they were, and what they could become if land - both public and private - were managed more for long-term bounty instead of for the next quarter’s bottom line.

Republicans in Congress aim to gut - yes, that’s a fair word - the Endangered Species Act by making it apply only to the direct killing of a protected animal or plant. No longer would it apply, as it does now, to the equally fatal destruction of habitat.

A better law - yes, the law does need reform - must include, at the end of the line, a legally enforceable mandate for habitat protection. But it also could include the leeway to admit a few species can’t be saved, and the discretion to concentrate effort where there’s hope. Further, it should encourage habitat stewardship with financial rewards, such as tax breaks. It should include swift negotiation processes, to prevent last-resort lawsuits.

Yet there must, in the end, be a federal mandate. History’s clear: In the absence of a law forcing everyone to a higher plane, the contest for short-term profit stampedes business toward the cheap way out - regardless of the eventual cost to ecosystems on which life and business depend.

, DataTimes MEMO: For opposing view, see headline: Species Act has evolved too far

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From Both Sides

For opposing view, see headline: Species Act has evolved too far

The following fields overflowed: SUPCAT = EDITORIAL, COLUMN - From Both Sides

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