House Committee Passes Two Bills Weakening Endangered Species Act

The House Resources Committee voted yesterday to pass two bills that could make listing species under the Endangered Species Act considerably more difficult. Both were shepherded through by the committee’s chair, Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.). The first bill, sponsored by Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-Calif.), would stipulate that before habitat is deemed critical for a species’ survival, officials must determine that such a designation is “practicable.” Rep. Nick Rahall (D-W. Va.) expressed many Democrats’ reservations thusly: “What is ‘practicable’ to me might not be ‘practicable’ to the secretary of the interior on a bad hair day.” The second bill, by Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.), would establish a peer-review board to assess the science prior to listing a species, a move many scientists say would delay listings and disqualify the statistical models they rely on. Pombo admits that the measures are a long shot, as they may not make it to the House floor this year and would surely face stiff opposition in the Senate.