Leave ESA intact
Since President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act, 40 years ago today, it has helped about 99 percent of the species that have been listed as endangered to survive - a remarkable record.
Some of those species are well-known - bald eagles, California condors, grizzly bears, peregrine falcons, several types of whales and some others. But they are just the marquee species. Others that are just as important to their ecosystems, like the Louisian black-footed ferret and the Lake Erie water snake, also have survived because of the scientific analysis and response that are inherent in the listing process.
Most listings are not controversial but, inevitably, some endangerment classifications clash with development interests because preserving a species most often means protecting its habitat.
Companion bills now in Congress, for example, would eviscerate the ESA by removing listing from the realm of science and placing it purely within the realm of politics. The bills would require governors in states affected by a listing to sign off on endangerment listings and extensions. And they would require the de-listing of every species every five years and re-listing, species by species, only with the specific approval of Congress.
Listing now is handled by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, which employ professional biologists for that purpose.
The ESA is a successful law that Congress should leave intact to continue its 40-year record of protecting the country's blessing of a rich biological diversity.