Endangered Species Reform

Press Release of the Environmental Policy Task Force
A project of The National Center for Public Policy Research


Media Contact: David Ridenour (202) 507-6398


Endangered Species Act Must be Scrapped if Wildlife is to be Protected, Group Says: Guidelines Issued for Effective Endangered Species Act Reform that Protects Both Wildlife and Citizens' Rights

The Endangered Species Act has failed to protect endangered and threatened species while needlessly violating the constitutional rights of individual citizens and costing the nation billions of dollars, according to the Environmental Policy Task Force. The Task Force has just released guidelines for effective Endangered Species Act reform that can protect both species and the rights of the American people.

The guidelines, published in two just-released Talking Points on the Economy cards, "Checklist for Endangered Species Act Reform" and "A Species Protection Plan That Works for Both Wildlife and Humans," include four general recommendations for effective reform and six specific policy recommendations. Among the Environmental Policy Task Force's general recommendations is that Congress recognize that the current Endangered Species Act has failed before attempting to reform the law. Some 900 plants and animals are currently listed as either "endangered" or "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act with another 4,000 species either candidates for future listing or in the process of being listed. But in the 21 years the law has been on the books, only 27 species have managed to get off the "endangered" list. Seven of these delistings were due to extinction and the remaining were due to data error, court orders or species improvements completely unrelated to the Endangered Species Act. The Act has been an abysmal failure because it actually encourages the destruction of species habitat.

"The greatest fear of any landowner is that their property will be identified by federal bureaucrats as potential habitat for an endangered species. Federal restrictions on the use of the land that result can render a property worthless," said David Ridenour, Vice President of The National Center for Public Policy Research and Director of Environmental Policy Task Force. "If landowners are destroying wildlife habitat today, it is only because the current Endangered Species Act has taught them that if they want to keep any of their investment they must extract whatever natural resources their land possesses quickly and make the land as inhospitable to wildlife as possible."

The fundamental flaws of the Endangered Species Act -- including its failure to protect endangered species -- means that the Endangered Species Act has outlived its usefulness and must go, according to Environmental Policy Task Force. In its place, the Task Force suggests that a voluntary, incentive-based species protection plan be adopted that includes such incentives as tax breaks and even cash payments to reward individuals for wildlife preservation. Rather than using the government's coercive powers to force individuals to shoulder the burden for species protection that the country as a whole desires, individuals would be rewarded for responsible stewardship by the public.

"The Endangered Species Act is out of control because the bureaucrats who enforce it don't have to pay for it. They transfer the cost of protecting endangered species habitat from the public at large to private individuals," said Congressman John Shadegg (R-AZ), a member of both the House Resource Committee and the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee's subcommittee on natural resources who will likely play a key role in Endangered Species Act reform. "Congress can restore rationality to the system by making the Fish and Wildlife Service pay for what it demands."

The Environmental Policy Task Force's reform guidelines recognize the underlying reasons for the Endangered Species Act's failure and thus represent a bold departure from past reform efforts. If there is to be meaningful Endangered Species Act reform, there can be no room for sentimental attachments and "good intentions" alone simply won't do.

"Now is not the time to be reaffirming the failed approach of the past," said John Shanahan, policy analyst with The Heritage Foundation who helped devise the Task Force's recommendations. "What is called for is a new vision which for the first time protects people and wildlife alike."

The Environmental Policy Task Force is a project of The National Center for Public Policy Research, a non-profit, non-partisan educational foundation and resource center based in Washington, D.C. The Task Force was established to find and promote innovative, workable solutions to environmental problems -- solutions that minimize the suffering of working Americans while still protecting the environment.

Correspondence to the Environmental Policy Task Force should be sent to:

Environmental Policy Task Force
The National Center for Public Policy Research
20 F Street NW, Suite 700
Washington, D.C. 20001
(202) 507-6398
Fax (301) 498-1301

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