The Wall Street Journal published a Pacific Legal Foundation op-ed that marks the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act by calling for reforms in the way the law is administered, to make it more beneficial for species that need help and less damaging to property rights and the economy.
“The Endangered Species Act Turns 40 — Hold the Applause”
Titled, “The Endangered Species Act Turns 40 — Hold the Applause,” the article is co-authored by Damien Schiff, a PLF principal attorney, and Julie MacDonald, a former deputy assistant secretary for Fish and Wildlife and Parks at the U.S. Interior Department. The op-ed points out that the law has achieved only meager success in bringing about the recovery of endangered and threatened species, while clumsy and heavy-handed regulatory enforcement has disrupted communities and destroyed jobs.
As three examples of ESA bureaucratic intrusions that have accomplished much more harm than good, the op-ed cites regulations relating to 1) the Utah prairie dog, which have frozen people’s ability to use their land in the southwestern part of that state; 2) the Preble’s meadow jumping mouse, which have hindered important infrastructure projects in Colorado; and 3) the Delta smelt, which have led to draconian irrigation cutbacks in California’s agricultural heartland.
The op-ed calls for several reforms that could be accomplished through regulatory change, without need for congressional action, including more scientific rigor and transparency in listing decisions, and more flexibility and cooperation with landowners in fashioning species-protection plans.