Q&A – The Proposed Changes To The Endangered Species Act

Today’s entry - Hi Brian, I'm part of the Southwest Florida Eagle Cam. I study Eagles, do photography and help educate others on Eagles. I was hoping you could give me some pointers on a political topic that I've found myself defending in great detail. The Endangered Species Act. Yesterday, during a live broadcast from Dr. Christian Sasse, renowned wildlife expert David Hancock gave me a piece of his mind on my support of the modifications to the Endangered Species Act. Have you done any research on the modifications to the Act? It seems to me these changes were proposed a long time ago and before the Trump Administration was in power and the new changes, or modifications I like to call them, are a positive thing. 

Bottom Line: In little more than a month, it’s possible we’ll see a change in regulations associated with the 1973 Endangered Species Act. As you noted this is a process that’s anything but new. The recommendations that are being considered were proposed by the Department of the Interior in 2009. About a year ago the current Department of the Interior, in conjunction with the related federal agencies, submitted the proposed changes along with a period for public comment that ended in September of last year. Having completed all the required steps for regulatory changes, we could soon see the changes implemented. What are they? Is it a good idea? Like most government regulation it’s complicated but here’s the summary provided: 

We, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service, propose to revise portions of our regulations that implement section 4 of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, as amended. The proposed revisions to the regulations clarify, interpret, and implement portions of the Act concerning the procedures and criteria used for listing or removing species from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants and designating critical habitat. We also propose to make multiple technical revisions to update existing sections or to refer appropriately to other sections.

In other words, tweaks to the regulations, not wholesale changes. As has been cited, the Act has generally been successful. 99% of endangered species haven’t become extinct since 73’ and 55 species have recovered from endangered status. There are clear benefits to the Act. At the same time, it’s ignorant to think that the Act was perfect in every way when constructed in 73’ and that it’s not possible to make changes that have the potential to benefit species and individuals alike. 

In Florida, we have 124 species that are federally protected including seven that are unique to our state. There is a lot on the line even locally, but there’s also a need for pragmatism. The most significant proposed change is that individuals can apply for exceptions to existing regulations and they would be considered on a case-by-case basis. I’ll give you a specific local example from 2007 to illustrate the point. 

In the wake of a subtropical storm in May of 2007, there was significant beach erosion. Multiple buildings had seawalls that were compromised and needed immediate repairs. At least one of the buildings made an appeal to immediately replace their seawall. It was rejected because the beach is protected territory for sea turtle nesting and the feds stated that an impact study would need to be completed before the application would be considered. That impact study would have potentially taken years to complete. Within weeks much of the property was washed out into the ocean including a pool, part of a parking structure, etc. A separate building was compromised and condemned. 

Think about how foolish that entire situation was. The beach erosion ensured that any nests were destroyed along with the buildings. Rather than being able to make quick fixes to save the structures, they weren’t able, resulting in lost property and extensive debris being swept out into the water negatively impacting the environment for years to come. That’s a real-life example of how existing policy and regulations can fail people and endangered species alike. I’m sure there are numerous similar but different examples across the country. Yes, we should protect engaged species but there should also be room for common sense to enter the equation. The proposed changes have the appearance of doing just that should they go through as planned. 

Submit your questions by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

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Photo By: KERRY SHERIDAN/AFP/Getty Images

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