Biologists Urge Senate to Strengthen, Not Trash, Endangered Species Act

With the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee set to take up revisions to the Endangered Species Act, nearly 6,000 of the country’s most influential biologists, including six National Medal of Science recipients, signed onto a letter last week urging lawmakers to preserve those protections based on sound science. Many of the scientists who signed onto the letter, prepared by the Union of Concerned Scientists, are fearful that an extreme revision of the law as passed by the House last year could jeopardize the long-term viability of many of the species now protected by the landmark 1973 law.

The controversial House version of the bill, as authored by California Republican and House Resources Committee Chair Richard Pombo, calls on the federal government to compensate property owners if endangered species protection impinges on development plans. It also calls for abolishing the “critical habitat” designation that limits development in areas where threatened species thrive.

“For species conservation to continue, it is imperative both that the scientific principles embodied in the act are maintained, and that the act is strengthened, fully implemented, and adequately funded,” concluded the letter. The biologists who signed on are hopeful that the Senate will see the folly in trashing what some consider to be the most important environmental law in the United States. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) says he hopes to have a revised bill ready for a full Senate vote by the end of the month.

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