The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was passed with good intentions, but in practice it has many problems. The ESA actually encourages private property owners to rid their properties of endangered species and their habitats because of the restrictions in beneficial use the Act imposes on property owners. The ESA is very expensive to taxpayers (regulatory costs exceed $1.2 billion per year). Besides trampling on property rights, the ESA destroys industries (remember the timber industry in the northwest?).
The ESA is easy to “game,” a characteristic that radical environmental groups take full advantage of through their “sue and settle” tactics. According to attorney Karen Budd-Falen, “Species are listed by a petition process, which means that anyone can send a letter to the federal government asking that a species, either plant or animal, be put on the ESA list. The federal government has 90 days to respond to that petition, no matter how frivolous. If the federal government fails to respond in 90 days, the petitioner – in the vast majority of cases, radical environmental groups – can file litigation against the federal government and get its attorneys fees paid. The simple act of filing litigation does not mean the species will get listed or that it is warranted to be protected; this litigation is only over whether the federal government failed to respond to the petition in 90 days. Between 2000 and 2009, in just 12 states and the District of Columbia, 14 environmental groups filed 180 federal court complaints to get species listed under the ESA and were paid $11,743,287 in attorneys fees and costs.” The act of responding to lawsuits causes government biologists to spend much less time on conservation work.
An example of this tactic was published last Monday by ADI in their article: “Absurd Sue And Settle Lawsuit Launched To Protect Borderlands Moth.” (Link) “Serial litigators, Defenders of Wildlife, Center for Biological Diversity, and Patagonia Area Resource Alliance filed a notice of intent to sue the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to protect the Patagonia eyed silkmoth under the Endangered Species Act.”
In my opinion, while these enviros are gaming the system for money, their main purpose is to stop development of new mines in the Patagonia Mountains of Southern Arizona. These properties have the potential to become a major source of lead, zinc, and silver, and the only U.S. source of manganese.
See related stories:
The other major problem with the Endangered Species Act is that, through bureaucratic bungling and bad science, the ESA is particularly poor at recovering endangered species.
The Heritage Foundation has recently published an assessment of the Endangered Species Act entitled: Correcting Falsely “Recovered” and Wrongly Listed Species and Increasing Accountability and Transparency in the Endangered Species Program by Robert Gordon (Read full report)
Numerous administrative actions should be taken to correct the record of species that are falsely claimed to have “recovered” and that have been declared endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) using erroneous data. It is crucial to improve implementation, accountability, and transparency in the administration of the ESA. The recommendations and information here will help correct the record, provide guidance as to some of the species that may be suitable for delisting on the grounds of data error or extinction, improve the likelihood that future delistings are appropriately categorized, eliminate unnecessary regulations and further waste, and ensure scarce conservation dollars are better spent.
In five years the Endangered Species Act will reach the half-century milestone—and yet only 40 U.S. species have graduated from the program as “recovered,” slightly less than one species per year. If not one more bird, beetle, or bear were added to the list of federally endangered animals and plants and somehow species recovered at 10 times that rate, it would take well over a century and-a-half to work through the current list.
There is, however, no indication that the list of regulated species will stop growing. Even worse, almost half of the “recovered” species—18 of 40— are federally funded fiction. They were never really endangered; like many species that remain on the endangered list, they were mistakes. With all the ESA’s costs and burdens, it should perhaps come as no surprise that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is fabricating success stories to cover up this unsustainable mess and substituting fluff for statutorily required reporting regarding the recovery program.
My opinion: It is time to consider repealing the ESA and replacing it with a more effective system that encourages conservation with positive incentives.