One quick note, NCBA today submitted recommendations to reform the ESA. Be on the lookout for further updates!
The Endanagered Species Act was passed by Congress in 1973 to provide a program for the conservation of threatened and endanagered plants and animals. ESA has had great success stories in the past. With increased numbers among the bald eagle, grizzly bear, gray wolf, and even the whopping crane, the Act has been called one of the most successful environmental laws in history. But what is really going on???
At NCBA Convention in Nashville in February, I had the opportunity to sit in on a meeting where there was a thought provoking attorney that gave an enlightening presentation on the ESA. Karen Budd-Falen is owner/partner of Budd-Falen Law Offices in Cheyenne, WY. What distinguishes Karen from the “attorney stereotype” is that she is a fifth generation rancher that specializes in protecting private property rights in rural communities. In other words…she’s on our side. Her comments grabbed my attention enough that I decided to do a little research into the ESA and see for myself what to believe.
As of November 29, 2011 there are currently 1065 American and 590 Foreign species on the ESA list. There is also candidate species, critical habitat designations and recovery plans. Wow, sounds impressive….but what’s not being told?? On the delisting side, 51 species have been removed, 18 of them because of error, 10 because of extinction, and 23 because the ESA worked. In other words since its formation it has worked as attended in 2% of the cases. Huh.
If that doesn’t get you a little irritated, how about this. According to the November 10, 2010 Fish and Wildlife Service Federal Register Notice the median coast for the federal government to prepare/publish an 90-day finding for the ESA is $39,276; for a 12-month finding, $100,690; for a proposed listing rule with critical habitat designation, $345,000; and for a final species listing rule, $305,000 (median cost). Karen Budd-Falen multiplied the number of species with the median cost per individual action and drumroll please…..came up with the cost to the American taxpayers of $206,098,920. Oh, and that is just the cost to simply complete the paperwork related to species that the Center for Biological Diversity and the WildEarth Guardians believe should be considered by the Fish and Wildlife Service for addition to the Act. That means costs relating to completing recovery plans, habitat conservation agreements, attorney fee reimbursement, etc, etc, are not included. Burr under the saddle yet??
Karen Budd-Falen gave testimony before the Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on this topic, and she nailed it on the head with the following:
“Rather than saving species and conserving their habitats, the ESA is used as a sword to tear down the American economy, drive up food, energy and housing costs and wear down and take out rural communities and counties.”
I’m not saying that we should completely demolish the ESA and what it stands for, but maybe the EPA and FWS can take some notes from the farmers/ranchers out there working with the land to find out a more efficient and less burdensome way on the taxpayers pockets. Course then I guess it wouldn’t be a typical government program….did I say that out loud? And that my friends is “Jac’d Up.”