Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Wolf at the Door (If We're Lucky)

This summer, I read (most of) Edward Humes' book, Eco-Barons: The Dreamers, Schemers and Millionaires Who Are Saving Our Planet.

In the interests of full disclosure, I must admit I haven't finished it yet, but it's on my reading list for Christmas Break.

One of the organizations profiled in Humes' book is The Center for Biological Diversity.  Humes' description of their approach and their work has stayed with me all of these months and I've included a link to their site on my list of "Worthy Causes" because, in my opinion, they rock.

The Center for Biological Diversity uses relevant legislation--in particular, the Endangered Species Act--to force government action on issues of conservation and wildlife preservation.

A bi-partisan venture signed into law in 1973 by President Richard Nixon, the Endangered Species Act is the only legislation that allows an individual citizen to directly petition the government to list a particular species if:

1) the species' habitat is currently being or has the potential to be destroyed, modified, curtailed or threatened
2) the species is being "over-utilized" for commercial, recreational, scientific or commercial purposes
3) disease and predators have significantly reduced the species' population
4) existing modes of regulation are proving to be inadequate
5) other natural or man-made factors are affecting its existence

In weighing the evidence presented, economic concerns cannot be taken into consideration: the petition for listing a particular species must be weighed solely on scientific and commercial data.

Executive Order #12291 signed by President Ronald Reagan in February of 1981 and requiring a cost-benefit analysis of all government agency activities was rejected by Congress; the House Committee stated, "economic considerations have no relevance to determinations regarding the status of species" (Stanford Environmental Law Society, The Endangered Species Act Stanford University Press, 2001, pg. 40).

Since its inception, the average annual rate of listings has steadily increased.

Ford Administration:  47 listings, 15 per year
Carter Administration: 126 listings, 32 per year
Reagan Administration: 255 listings, 32 per year
Bush Administration: 231 listings, 58 per year
Clinton Administration: 521 listings, 65 per year
Source: Greenwald, Noah; K. Suckling and M. Taylor (2006). "Factors affecting the rate and taxonomy of species listings under the U.S. Endangered Species Act". In D. D. Goble, J.M. Scott and F.W. Davis. The Endangered Species Act at 30: Vol. 1: Renewing the Conservation Promise. Washington, D.C.: Island Press. pp. 50–67. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1597260096/.
Under the administration of George W. Bush, the number of listings dropped to an unprecedented low: as of 2008, there had been only 60 listings, or an average of 8 per year.

In addition, a report by The Washington Post in March 2008 showed that, beginning in 2001, the Bush Administration implemented "pervasive bureaucratic obstacles" designed to limit the number of listings.  (Juliet Eilperin, "Since '01, Guarding Species Is Harder: Endangered Listings Drop Under Bush", Washington Post, March 23, 2008)

Today, The Center for Biological Diversity filed a notice of intent to sue the Department of the Interior for "failing to develop a recovery plan for wolves in the lower 48 states," as required under The Endangered Species Act.

Obviously, there is much work still to be done.  To date, however, The Center for Biological Diversity has been successful in 93% of the lawsuits it has filed.

The wolves are in good hands.

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