In some corners, the topic of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) will evoke blood-curdling screams and political rancor the likes of which are rivaled only by immigration reform and calls for building the Wall.
Sadly, scientists estimate that one-third of all wildlife species in the U.S. are vulnerable due to habitat loss and invasive species which have had significant impact on birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, butterflies, and bees. All types of wildlife are declining—in many cases dramatically. And the cost to save these species from extinction under the ESA is staggering, costing $1.4B USD each year with little to show for it. Toward this end, between 1990–2010, of the nearly 1,300 listed species over half were continuing to decline even with ESA protection. Another 35% were deemed stable, but only 8% were improving.
The troubling news, however, states have identified 12,000 species that are in need of action to keep them from heading toward ESA listing. To make matters worse, we’re not spending enough under ESA to protect the 1,300 species listed – the true cost is somewhere upward of $4B each year.
“Shoot, shovel and shut-up” has been the mantra of landowners who understandably don’t want the financial and legal liabilities of having a protected species take up habitation on their property. It’s high time we recognize that ESA is an abysmal failure as a policy tool for protecting species – it’s really for those on life-support. No one likes it, not industry, not landowners, and increasingly not environmental groups.
Therefore, we need to do something differently; otherwise, we’re headed toward an epic political, economic, and ecological mess.
News flash. The best way to protect species is to keep them off the ESA list entirely. And we actually have a chance of doing just that by managing wildlife resources smarter and better.
Republicans and Democrats are working on a common-sense solution that would transfer more federal dollars (funds already exist from oil and gas leases and mining on federal lands) back to the states to be managed by the state wildlife resource agencies. This is all part of draining the swamp and allowing more states to keep the money locally where it can be put to good use.
But the solution requires a change of law. Congressman Fortenberry (R ) from Nebraska is the sponsor of a bill called, Recovering America’s Wildlife Act. But we need more Republican support.
You can read more details about it on NWF’s website here, including how you can help support.