WASHINGTON, D.C.—For the first time in more than a decade, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill last week that its proponents claim will update and modernize the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005 was introduced by Chairman Richard W. Pombo (R-CA) and Rep. Dennis Cardoza (D-CA) with more than 96 co-sponsors from 30 states across the country. It was passed by a vote of 229 to 193.
Supporters of the bill said that, although born of the best intentions, the original ESA “failed to recover endangered species while conflict and litigation have plagued local communities and private property owners alike,” including the CNMI.
Under the existing ESA, protection of the nightingale reed-warbler, an endangered species on Saipan, has caused problems with grazers, and delays in developing golf courses, the landfill, the Veterans Cemetery, and the proposed new Public Cemetery in Marpi.
Also listed as endangered or threatened in the Northern Marianas are the Marianas Fruit Bat and the Tinian Monarch. On Rota, over 10 thousand acres have been designated as critical habitat for the Rota Bridled White-eye, and the Marianas Crow.
“The problem with the Endangered Species Act is not its intent of recovering endangered species, it’s the results,” said CNMI Resident Rep. Pete A. Tenorio.
According to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, less than 1 percent of the 1,300 species listed as endangered has recovered in the Act’s history, and only 6 percent are classified as “improving.”
“This bill gives the hard working staff at FWS better tools to do their jobs, and will allow easier cooperation with private landowners, and local governments,” said Tenorio. “This is good news for the CNMI, where we have limited resources, and need more flexibility in developing them.”
TESRA fixes the long-outstanding problems of the Endangered Species Act by:
* focusing on species recovery;
* providing incentives;
* increasing openness and accountability;
* strengthening scientific standards;
* creating bigger roles for state and local governments;
* protecting private property owners; and
* eliminating dysfunctional critical habitat designations.
“During debate, the entire House of Representatives seemed to agree the ESA is in need of updates and improvements,” Pombo said. “It’s incredible how far we have come.” (PR)