by Greg Walcher, E&E Legal Senior Policy Fellow
As Appearing in the Daily Sentinel
In July, the Administration published its much-anticipated plan to modify enforcement of the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The most powerful environmental law ever enacted, it was signed into law 45 years ago, and has steadily become more powerful and intrusive. Decades of controversy have ensued about whether limiting human activity is justified, and there have been numerous attempts at “reform,” but the law remains mostly unchanged.
Originally understood by most Americans as an effort to save high-profile species like the bald eagle and grizzly bear, the law’s reach has grown to include 2,407 species of plants, animals, fish, birds, mollusks, and worms. Another 18 species are about to be added, another 28 are considered “candidates for listing.” Over the life of the ESA, just over one percent have been removed from the list, making the goal of species recovery one of government’s most dismal failures.
The environmental lobby has always viewed endangered listings themselves as the primary goal, because listings lead to regulating business activity like mining, ranching, logging, and energy. That’s why such groups have petitioned the government to add another 145 new species to the list, an effort that will never end. On a global scale, the International Union for Conservation and Nature says over 16,000 species are in danger of extinction, and another 41,000 species are on its “red list,” mostly because of human activity