Species protection bill disliked before unveiling

Cattle Market & Farm Reports, Editorials
Jul 18, 2005
by WLJ

A proposed bill that would amend sections of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is getting criticized by property rights organizations, including western ranching groups, and it hasn’t even been introduced in Congress yet.
A leaked copy of Rep. Richard Pombo’s (R-CA) “Threatened and Endangered Species Recovery Act of 2005" showed the proposal includes two main items of concern for property owners.
The first criticism is for language mandating a 50 percent compensation trigger. Under this change, landowners would have to prove that wildlife protection provided under the ESA has resulted in 50 percent or more of private land being removed from their management before compensation can be applied for. Secondly, Pombo’s bill would give invasive plant species protection.
Western state ranching organizations called those two modifications “uncalled for” and an effort to appease radical environmentalists and species conservationists.
Two western state cattle organization executives told WLJ last week that the 50 percent trigger compensation, if included in the ESA, could force many of their ranching members out of business or severely hamper their financial stability.
“Forget 50 percent, most ranchers would start to lose their viability after losing 10-15 percent of their production. And, to compound it by having to go through a verification process that says 50 percent of your land has been impacted by ESA actions is ludicrous,” one state executive director said. “People will still be in limbo for years before agencies issue final decision, all the while not able to use their land.”
On the issue of including “invasive” species under the auspices of the act, private property interests said ranchers could be forced off their grazing or pasture lands because a certain forage has been deemed “threatened” or “endangered.” In addition, several concerns were the result of some grasses commonly used for lawns or yards that could be classified for ESA protection and then the government would technically have control of those areas, as well.
“For instance, tall fescue, a grass commonly used by homeowners for their lawns, could qualify as an invasive species and be regulated by the federal government,” said the private property group Liberty Matters, in a statement.
Congressional aides said last week that Pombo’s proposal is expected to be introduced in the House of Representatives by the end of July, but did not know any specific date. — Steven D. Vetter, WLJ Editor


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