- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 21, 2005

The Endangered Species Act is ineffective, and Congress must work fast to improve it, House Resources Committee Chairman Richard W. Pombo warns.

A report released Tuesday by the committee showed that since it was enacted in 1973, “only 10 of nearly 1,300 domestic species” on the endangered list have recovered.

“The ESA has not achieved its original intent of recovering species,” the California Republican said. “In fact, there is little evidence of progress in the law’s 30-year history.”

He said the act needs a legislative update, with a focus on strengthening results for species recovery.

The committee’s report cites data provided to Congress by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Marine Fisheries.

The most recent data from the Fish and Wildlife Service showed that 77 percent of species listed as endangered are in the lowest “recovery achieved” category, meaning they met 25 percent or less of the objectives. Only 2 percent fall into the highest category, having met 76 percent or more of the objectives.

And the recovery status of 60 percent of listed species is either “uncertain” or “declining,” while 30 percent are classified as stable, 6 percent as improving and 3 percent as possibly extinct.

The most damaging information discovered by the committee, Mr. Pombo said, was how a wealth of erroneous data reporting on some species has led to millions of wasted taxpayer dollars.

“At least 15 of the 33 domestic species that have been delisted in the act’s history were removed from the list because of original data error,” the report says. “Expenditures by federal, state and private parties on species listed based on erroneous data could total hundreds of millions of dollars” that could be targeted for more worthy animals.

“The Endangered Species Act’s less than 1 percent success rate for species recovery is a well-documented and readily available statistic, but the status of the remaining species on its list has not been as clear until now,” Mr. Pombo said. “This exhaustive review of government data makes it clear the vast majority of these species have not improved under implementation of current law.”

Rep. Nick J. Rahall II, West Virginia Democrat and his party’s ranking member on the committee, said Mr. Pombo’s rhetoric goes too far, but agreed there is room to improve the act.

“I will agree there are insufficient funds to do the job, and it is a very difficult and complicated job, but the basic intent of the bill is working,” Mr. Rahall said. “There is room for reform around the edges, but I just don’t think we should be so ready to throw the baby out with the bath water.”

He added that he would have been more comfortable with an independent report and not one produced by Republican staffers.

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