Re: NANFA-L-- Endangered Species Act

Christopher Scharpf (ichthos at
Wed, 21 Sep 2005 20:04:25 -0400

For several years I've been studying the ESA and its application towards
imperiled fishes very closely in preparation for a lengthy ms. on the topic,
and my immediate finding is that, Yes, the ESA prevents most (but not all)
fish species from going extinct. (The exceptions -- Maryland darter and,
possibly, Alabama sturgeon -- are fishes that were too far gone in the first

The fact that the ESA has been very successful in preventing extinctions is
something that critics of the Act conveniently overlook. They continuously
bemoan the fact that most listed species have not recovered, i.e., been
removed from the list. But this does not mean that the Act is a "failure."

The reasons most species have not recovered are many, but a main one is
simply the fact that there is scarcely the money, and the political will, to
do the job right. Pombo et al cut the Fish & Wildlife budget to shreds, then
criticize the agency for not succeeding in its mission!

Recovery for long-lived fishes such as sturgeons, which need to be 20 or
more years old to reproduce, may not happen for decades and decades. And how
does one "recover" a naturally rare fish such as the Devils Hole pupfish?
This fish is actually an ESA success story. But the way Pombo twists it,
it's an ESA failure because it's still endangered.

Pombo and his ilk are disingenuous -- and disturbingly misleading -- when
they profess concern about the "failure" of the Act, then propose changes
that will weaken the Act even more.

I close with three oft-repeated Myths vs. Realities:

Myth: The Endangered Species Act is causing loss of jobs and economic
devastation in many areas of the country.

Reality: Economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology analyzed
the economic impacts of endangered species.They found that states with many
listed species have economies that were at least as healthy as those with
very few endangered species.Even in the Pacific Northwest,where logging
restrictions were imposed,in part, because of the northern spotted owl, the
regional economy is booming. Three years after the curtailment of logging in
Federal forests,Oregon posted its lowest unemployment rate in a generation.

Myth: Many irresolvable conflicts with endangered species occur every year,
stopping many valuable projects and hindering progress.

Reality: Of the 225,403 projects that were reviewed from 1979 to 1996, only
37 development projects were halted. That is one project stopped per 6,092
projects reviewed. In most cases, projects that were halted did proceed once
the project design was modified to avoid endangering species.

MYTH: The recovery of the bald eagle and the peregrine falcon is due to the
banning of DDT and related chemicals, not the ESA.

FACT: The ban on DDT, a pesticide which caused these and other birds to lay
eggs with shells too thin to withstand the weight of incubating parent
birds, was essential to the recovery of peregrines and eagles. However, the
bald eagle and peregrine falcon did not return entirely on their own: The
Endangered Species Act played an critical role in their recovery by funding
translocations of birds from areas where they were more numerous, by
preserving habitat, and by mandating stiff penalties for shooting and other
acts harmful to endangered species.

Chris Scharpf
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