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E-M:/ Bad Endangered Species Bill Alert

Enviro-Mich message from anne.woiwode@sfsierra.sierraclub.org


A very troubling Endangered Species Act revision is racing through the U.S.
Senate right now, and your help is needed to make sure that Michigan's two
Senators work to oppose this bill, or at least DO NOT SIGN ON to the
Kempthorne bill.  S. 1180 is described below, with a particular focus on its
serious flaws. What is most troubling is that this bill has attracted some
support from well-meaning but clearly misguided political leaders nationally.
This is a classic case of splitting the baby - it may look possible on paper,
but the reality is the baby dies when you do it!

Previously we let you know about a bill in the U.S. House, HR 2351, that is a
very good bill that has some Michigan Congressional Reps. supporting it, and
that is referenced in the last part of this fact sheet.


Kempthorne Bill to Weaken the ESA moving quickly in the Senate

S.1180, the Senate bill introduced by Senators Kempthorne, Chafee, Baucus and
Reid to reauthorize the Endangered Species Act will fundamentally weaken our
nation's premier wildlife protection law.  The bill, after months of closed
door negotiations was introduced September 16 and is now being rammed through
the Senate with little opportunity for meaningful review or amendment.  Though
Senator Kempthorne is touting his bill as a gleaming example of compromise
and consensus, the Sierra Club strongly opposes S.1180 because it undermines
the ability to recover our nation's imperiled fish, wildlife and plants in
the following ways:

- "No Surprises" Policy Guarantees Protection for Landowners But Not for

S.1180 allows landowners to lock-in long-term management plans (habitat
conservation plans) that exempt them from further conservation obligations
for up to 100 years, even if the HCP is known to be contributing to the
decline of a species.  This controversial "No Surprises" guarantee would only
be appropriate if proper safeguards were also extended to wildlife.
Scientists have recommended that HCPs allow us to periodically evaluate the
effectiveness of the HCP and also provide a secure source of funding to allow
Secretary of Interior to carry out necessary changes.  S.1180 doesn't have
these safeguards and would allow HCPs to remain in force even if they are
contributing to the decline of the species.

- Limits watchdog agency review of federal projects that may harm endangered

The Kempthorne bill allows federal agencies such as the Forest Service to make
their own assessment as to whether an action such as a timber sale, dam, or
road building project might harm endangered species present.   Under current
law, this important decision is made by a watchdog agency, the US Fish and
Wildlife Service.  S.1180 requires that USFWS "beat the clock" and sets a
tight deadline by which they must veto a bad agency decision.  If USFWS is
unable to respond in 60 days, the timber sale, dam or road moves forward,
regardless of its harm to species.

- Grants Special Access to Special Interests, Limits Public Participation

Allows industry interests--but excludes the public--from consultation
decisions regarding actions on public lands such as a timber sale or dam that
may jeopardize the survival of a threatened or endangered species.  S.1180
must provide equal access to important decisions that affect endangered
species and that allow habitat destruction on public lands.

- Erects Roadblocks to key ESA Protections of Listing and Recovery Planning

S.1180 adds burdensome and time-consuming new procedural requirements that
will delay listing decisions and recovery planning. The bill requires all
listing proposals be peer reviewed regardless of whether there is a
scientific dispute.  It also requires extensive speculative economic analysis
on the costs (but not benefits) of every possible recovery strategy
considered.  These new hurdles will virtually guarantee that the backlog of
species with no recovery plan (nearly half) will continue to grow and that
those species will continue decline.  Under the bill, the Secretary can
bypass recovery planning entirely by deeming that an agreement such as a
forest plan or  HCP serve as a "functional equivalent" of a recovery plan.

- Loophole Turns Back the Clock on Designating Critical Habitat

The Kempthorne bill turns back the clock on species protection by allowing the
USFWS to refuse to designate critical habitat (lands important to the recovery
of an endangered species) on the grounds that it is "not determinable."  This
is a loophole Congress closed 15 years ago.

These dangerous provisions contained in S.1180 must be amended.  The rapid
pace at which this bill is being pushed forward gives us grave concerns as to
whether meaningful review and important changes can be made.  We urge Senators
to look instead at the bill offered by Representative George Miller on the
House side.  It is the benchmark by which we will measure any bill to
reauthorize the Endangered Species Act.  That bill, HR 2351, is an innovative
bill based in large part on the recommendations of the National Academy of
Sciences.  Miller's bill focus es on preventing species decline before they
become endangered and promoting the recovery of species to healthy populations
to the point where they can be removed from the endangered species list.


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