Relief Report #61: February 13, 1998

Kempthorne’s ESA Bill Diverts Resources Away From Global Warming Fight
A political battle between big industry groups and grassroots property rights activists over Senator Dirk Kempthorne’s Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 1180) is diverting limited resources away from such key issues as global warming, say grassroots leaders.

“Every minute and every dollar grassroots groups have to devote to defeating the Kempthorne bill is a minute and a dollar not available for the battle against the Kyoto treaty,” said Myron Ebell, coordinator of the 350-group-strong Grassroots ESA Coalition. “Because the Kempthorne bill would destroy any chance for property rights in the forseeable future, grassroots property rights activists have no choice but to focus the efforts against the bill.”

Among the industry groups backing the Kempthorne bill are the American Forest and Paper Association, the American Petroleum Institute, the National Mining Association, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Association of Realtors — most of which have a vested interest in stopping the Kyoto Protocol which would require the U.S. to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 7% below 1990 levels by 2010.

Grassroots activists oppose the bill because it would reauthorize the Endangered Species Act for another six years without requiring compensation of property owners when their land is regulated out from under them. Once reauthorized, any leverage for pressing for such protection will be gone for a minimum of six years.

Compensation is also essential for rare species. Under the ESA, federal authorities have sweeping powers to regulate land they deem suitable habitat for rare species. Because such regulation can mean huge uncompensated property value losses, land owners have the incentive to make their land inhospitable to species. As a result, species and habitat are often destroyed.

Big timber companies and developers favor the Kempthorne bill because it would codify Habitat Conservation Plans (HCPs), extra-legal arrangements they’ve negotiated with federal officials that are currently vulnerable to legal challenge. Although HCPs require timber companies to restrict their land use to federally-approved activities, they also permit them to engage in commercial activities that might otherwise be prohibited under the ESA.

If the Senate passes the Kempthorne bill, environmentalists will once again accuse Republicans of working with big industry to undermine the nation’s environmental laws. This time, they might be right.


New Releases from The National Center for Public Policy Research


National Policy Analysis Papers1998 Legislative Outlook. Four-page paper outlining the prospects for leading environmental legislation during the second half of the 105th Congress.

Will Republicans Provide Grist for Environmentals’ Mill? Quick-read, two-page paper showing how a vote Senator Dirk Kempthorne’s Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 1180) may support environmentalists’ claim that Republicans place corporate profits above the needs of the environment.

Talking Points CardsGrist for Environmentalists’ Mill: GOP May Push Industry-Backed ESA Bill. Succinct, pocket-sized card outlining five key weaknesses of Senator Dirk Kempthorne’s Endangered Species Recovery Act (S. 1180) that make it bad for both small landowners and the environment.

Special PublicationsBlack America 1997: How Government Harms Charities. Eighty-two page study by The National Center-sponsored African-American leadership group Project 21 that shows how federal regulations impede the ability of local charities to help those in need. The study includes the stories of some 131 community service organizations.

The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.