Endangered Species Act: A Tale of Two Editorials

I read two newspaper editorials on Endangered Species Act reform today.

One was written by editors of the multi-city Examiner who seem to like the original (1973) Endangered Species Act, but who took the time to look beyond name-brand environmentalist talking points to understand the concern some critics have with the structure of the original ESA.

The other does not seem to reflect more than an understanding of the talking points of the environmental left.

My guess is that the writers of the second editorial, which appeared in the Hartford Courant, didn’t review the content of the ESA reform bill adopted by the House last year. One clue is their sentence: “…the successes of [the original ESA] affirm what Americans can accomplish when they devote resources and commitment to a problem. On that score, the cynical modifications to the Endangered Species Act… approved by the House are a disservice to Americans…”

The House bill would increase government resources directed at endangered species recovery, as it requires the government to reimburse private citizens for ESA-related losses. (The House provision is designed to reduce instances of “shoot, shovel and shut up,” the phenomenon in which private property owners, fearful of losing the right to use their land while still being required to pay taxes on it, surreptitiously kill endangered species they find on their property.)

It may seem perverse that name-brand environmentalists oppose this, but they believe this provision will disclose to their fellow citizens just how much ESA enforcement really costs.

Policy transparency is inconvenient, but honest government requires it.

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