Letter From the Editor
By: M. Elsbeth McPhee
Since the Endangered Species Act came up for reauthorization in 1992,
Congress has tried each year to renew this important environmental law.
On September 16, a controversial reauthorization bill, S. 1180, was introduced
to the Senate. This bill is sponsored by Senator Dirk Kempthorne (R-Idaho),
and Senators John Chafee (R-Rhode Island), Max Baucus (D-Montana), and
Harry Reid (D-Nevada). Secretary of Interior Bruce Babbitt was also closely
involved in the drafting of S. 1180 and has pledged to support the bill.
The bill's provisions include:
- a number of programs to engage landowners in proactive conservation;
- codification of the Clinton Administration's "Safe Harbor"
- adoption of the experimental "No Surprises" policy;
- ability of agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service to make the initial
determination as to whether an activity is "likely to adversely affect"
a listed species;
- allowance of a federal project to move forward if the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife or National Marine Fisheries Services fail to challenge it within
60 days from the Forest Service's determination;
- allowance of certain activities on federal lands to move forward before
the project's cumulative impacts on newly listed species have been studied
and considered through a reinitiation of consultation;
- a full waiver of the Section 7 consultation process for agencies and
private individuals, who agree to complete activities that are believed
to contribute to the recovery of the species and that are approved as part
of a "recovery implementation agreement;"
- increased data requirements for listing petitions and increased public
debate over each listing decision;
- requirement that all listings be evaluated by a peer review panel of
- a 30 month deadline for plan completion;
- a priority-setting process to determine which recovery plans should
be completed first and requirement that each plan include economic analyses
of recovery options and reviews by the states, a peer review panel of scientists,
- no source of funding for the programs outlined.
Though hailed by some as the right direction in endangered species recovery,
others feel it will drastically weaken endangered species protections.
As of October 3, the bill had passed the Senate Environment and Public
Works Committee by a 15-3 margin with little debate and is widely expected
to pass quickly through the Senate. Assuming a Senate bill does pass, the
House of Representatives will likely take up the debate over ESA reauthorization
at some point next year. In the meantime, this legislation promises to
be the one of most important pieces of ESA legislation to hit the floor
in years. In the next issue of the Endangered Species UPDATE, look for
further discussion of S. 1180 and Endangered Species Act Reauthorization
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