Bipartisan efforts to revamp the Endangered Species Act begin

A hearing of the Senate fisheries, wildlife, and water subcommittee last week kicked off what is likely to be an extended process of revising and updating the Endangered Species Act. There is bipartisan agreement on several measures, including providing grants and incentives to private landowners to protect species on their land, and developing formal scientific recovery plans prior to designating critical habitat off-limits to development. But opinions vary widely outside that consensus. Some congressfolk view the act as a failure because less than 1 percent of protected species have recovered. In two weeks, House Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo (R-Calif.) plans to introduce sweeping reforms expected to substantially weaken the act. More conservation-minded folk say he’s missing the point. “Species that make it onto the list … have been declining for a long time, in some cases for as long as a century,” said Michael J. Bean of Environmental Defense. “It’s mathematically impossible and biologically impossible to get them back to abundance in a short amount of time.”