Nancy Working: Endangered humanity
The Endangered Species Act, enacted in 1973, is the result of citizens’ concern about how best to protect animals and plants from extinction. The stated purpose of the Endangered Species Act is to protect species and “the ecosystems upon which they depend.”
Concerned organizations or individuals can petition the Secretary of the Interior. The petition is then submitted to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service. These organizations have 90 days to evaluate the merit of the petition based on scientific evidence that includes habitat evaluation. If accepted, it can take up to a year to complete the investigation and list the species.
The Environmental Safety Act has been a clear success. Since inception, it has saved 99 percent of the 1,600 species protected from extinction.
By protecting habitat, many hundreds of other threatened species are now in recovery — think bald eagles. A recent poll shows that 90 percent of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, support keeping it in place.
According to a 2011 study conducted by the National Fisheries, the value of the services provided by the Environmental Safety Act totaled more than $32 billion for National Wildlife Refuges protect under the act. These refuges attract sports enthusiasts, nature lovers and bird watchers. They provide protection from climate change and are a source for clean air, water and biodiversity. Currently, the cost to manage the ESA is $1.7 billion, a minuscule amount compared to the returned value.
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke and a few senators, with the encouragement and monetary support from the oil, gas and other extractive industries, are looking at weakening the Environmental Safety Act under the name of “modernization.” Just a few of the proposals include:
• Changes to the requirement that federal agencies consult with experts from wildlife agencies and scientists when seeking permits for projects such as logging or oil and gas drilling operations.
• Taking wildlife agencies and scientists out of consideration could irreparably damage the land and wildlife.
• In addition, the new proposal means threatened species would no longer be extended the same protections as endangered ones — threatened species would be assessed on a case-by-case basis — think polar bears.
• Removal of the existing protection against “take,” which is defined as any actions that harm the species including “habitat modification or degradation” where it actually kills or injures wildlife by significantly impairing essential behavior patterns including breeding, feeding or sheltering — think orcas. The harm this would cause cannot be estimated.
With these changes, the ESA would be injured and eventually incapacitated.
If change is required, why not make empowering, forward-looking change that would protect all species including the human species? Create a plan and a time line to eliminate the need for extractive activities. There is a limited supply of oil, gas. Take action to reduce pollution and fight climate change.
According to a prominent conservation biologist, E.O. Wilson, one of the world’s preeminent scholars on biodiversity and a Pulitzer Prize winner, “If we continue on our current path, half of all species worldwide are likely to go extinct in the next century. That is a troublesome warning that, if allowed to become reality, would have tremendously detrimental implications for our global ecosystem.”
To stand for our land and its species is a rational, moral imperative. Show your support and attend the rally at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 10 at the Routt County Courthouse and contact our representatives asking that they protect the ESA: Sen. Michael Bennet at 970-241-6631, Sen. Cory Gardner at 202-224-5941 and Rep. Scott Tipton at 970-241-2499.
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