ESA news: whether the species are elephants or polar bears, turtles or smelt, ESA implementation debates rage on.
Domestic political rhetoric about the Endangered Species Act almost seems commonplace -- as with a recent speech by Wyoming Rep. Colin Simpson, who is campaigning for Governor by promising to challenge the federal government’s use of the Endangered Species Act to block energy development. See Green River Star. But the ESA can trigger powerful foreign affairs rhetoric, too. For example, protection of endangered elephants, and the cessation of the illegal ivory trade, has long been a subject of international diplomacy. See Voice of America. But this week, the listing of the polar bear as a threatened species led to debates over whether the species should also be regulated pursuant to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). See Washington Post and Christian Science Monitor. Beluga sturgeon fared better (or worse, depending on your perspective) when they were reclassified in the Caspian Sea as "critically endangered." And just yesterday, the ESA, the State Department informed Congress that Mexico lost its certification to send wild-harvest shrimp to the United States, because its trawls and fisheries no longer met standards requiring Turtle Excluded Devices (pictured below) to protect endangered and threatened sea turtles. See also, Business Week.
When it comes to turtles, however, North Carolina fishermen expect to cause fewer problems, because its Marine Fisheries Commission adopted stricter measures to address interactions with sea turtles. See Jacksonville Daily News. But Floridian fishermen and other interest groups are debating the merits and consequences of the recent NOAA decision to list loggerhead turtles (pictured above) as a threatened species. See Florida Today.
ESA debates rage in California, too. With the traditional bi-partisan spirit of the San Joaquin Valley politicians destroyed by the health care debate, Republicans are forcing a local Democrat to choose between his farmer constituents, or his environmental principles, by proposing to waive the ESA limits on Bay Delta water pumping. See Miami Herald. Sadly, that legislative proposal ignores a recent National Academy of Sciences peer review report. After considering the raging controversy over Delta smelt and salmonids in the Sacramento Bay-Delta, the independent science panel concluded that the rigorous species protection measures were "scientifically justified." See LA Times. As a result of the report, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) dropped her amendment to override the Endangered Species Act, see Huffington Post, and the Center for Biological Diversity declared vindication, while California Farmer recognized that the farmers attempted political push had backfired on them (but obviously not for long...)
Finally, one last piece of Keithinking. ESA-watchers might recall a letter and press release, two weeks ago, about the implementation of the ESA's critical habitat provisions. 50 different groups (led by the usual suspects such as the Center for Biological Diversity) called for reform. See Nossaman LLC. As the Greenwire article explained, quoting CBD, "The courts are beginning to reject efforts to limit adverse modification, so I think the administration is starting to recognize they need to address it. The courts have been very clear that adverse modification is a recovery-based standard." If their viewpoint prevails with the Obama Administration, the result could be much larger critical habitat designations in the future, and increased efforts to prevent any modifications at all within that critical habitat. But if the viewpoint does not prevail through rulemaking, then the legal community can start preparing for the inevitable next wave of ESA-based litigation -- as evidenced by the calls for public comment seeking expanded critical habitat for Bull Trout and the lawsuits over the failure to designate adequate critical habitat for Florida panthers, black abalone.