Republican Bills Will Effectively Kill Off The Endangered Species Act If They Become Law

The bald eagle was one of the first species to receive protection under the precursor to the Endangered Species Act in 1967. KarSol/Shutterstock

It’s difficult to see how people could be against the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which came about in 1973 and was signed into law by President Nixon. It’s designed to make sure that vulnerable species of plants and animals remain protected, and that any trends to extinction are reversed, no matter what the cost.

Unfortunately, we live in 2017, where the GOP war against supposedly “overburdening regulations” has become nothing short of extreme. To wit, the party now has four separate bills in the House, almost fully formed and ready for a vote, which will take apart the ESA once and for all.

Last year, Representative Rob Bishop (R-Utah) – who’s heading this legislative effort – said that he wanted to repeal the ESA in its entirety. The reason, of course, is short-term profits: Regions with protected species mean that resource extraction, like mining and fracking, cannot take place there. If the ESA disappears, so do these restrictions.

A clean repeal would be immensely difficult to achieve – partly because 90 percent of Americans support the Act – so these five bills are designed to handicap it as best as it can. Let’s look at the two that would do the most damage if passed through both the House and, later, the Senate.

H.R. 717, put forward by Representative Pete Olson (R-Texas), would “require the consideration of the economic costs of protecting an animal or plant on the endangered species list, and remove all deadlines for completing the listing process.”

This is essentially a way for lawmakers to prioritize resource extraction or land sales over the relatively small cost of ensuring something doesn’t go the way of the dodo. No such economic threshold is set, so it’s really up to policymakers as to when the ESA becomes “too costly” in an area.

What's more important, profit or conservation? bjul/Shutterstock

Additionally, as pointed out by the Center for Biological Diversity, it takes an average of around 12 years for the appropriate federal agencies to put flora or fauna on the endangered species list. If this bill passes, it means that this isn’t taken into account, which would consequently leave plenty of species bereft of protection.

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