Those who back the Endangered Species Act won't be happy to read a quote in the New York Times that sums up a story about its fate: "It's probably the best chance that we have had in 25 years to actually make any substantial changes," says Richard Pombo, a congressman-turned-lobbyist whose clients include mining companies. The gist of the story is that the 45-year-old act is at imminent risk of being seriously watered down. That's due in part to a slew of proposed bills weakening protection for everything from gray wolves to grizzly bears, but, more significantly, to the White House's own proposal to overhaul the ESA, which was unveiled last week. The push is intensifying now because Republicans control not just the White House but both houses of Congress, something that might not be true after the midterms.
The proposal from the Interior and Commerce departments to change the ESA is here. It would generally make it harder to add species to the protected list and easier to remove them, and the Washington Post takes note of a key component: For the first time, it would require officials to weigh economic ramifications in wildlife decisions. Specifically, the proposal would remove the phrase "without reference to possible economic or other impacts" from the original. Environmentalists are alarmed, while those in the opposite camp say the ESA has gone too far in restricting the interests of developers, farmers, and the like. "Anyone who tries to do even modest reform is completely demagogued," complains Kathleen Sgamma of the Western Energy Alliance. Still, support for the ESA among the public is high across the political spectrum, at about 83%, notes Vox.