Julian Omidi discusses the Endangered Species Act, and the attempt by Republican lawmakers to shift conservation responsibility and regulations onto the states, rather than the federal government.
Human beings are apex predators; we are at the top of the food chain. We are also the most varied types of predators, and do not have other species’ hardwired instincts for what is necessary prey and what isn’t. No other animal kills for sport and recreation to the extent that we do, nor do other animals kill unintentionally in the service of another aim (unless we count the spread of disease). As a result, humans have decimated incalculable animal species, and would continue to do so unchecked without established regulations.
The Endangered Species Act was passed in 1973 as a response to the hundreds of years of expansion and industrialization that eliminated and nearly eliminated Native American animal species. Widespread Bison hunting for nothing more than pelts nearly destroyed the entire population, which was in the tens of millions in the beginning of the 19th century.
The Whooping Crane dwindled down to 16 in the early 1940s. The American Bald Eagle population diminished to only several hundred in the entire United States, having been largely sterilized by the wide use of DDT pesticides and hunted by Alaskan livestock farmers. Before the Endangered Species Act was passed, animal conservation efforts were largely concentrated on the prevention of hunting threatened species, without focus on the habitat or ecosystem. The Endangered Species Act endeavored to protect both the animals and the lands, which are necessary for their survival.
While the Endangered Species Act was roundly applauded by environmentalists, conservationists and wildlife advocates, it has been maligned by industrialists whose attempts to develop on sites near species on the endangered list have been undermined. Republicans have, historically, been unenthusiastic about the impediments to business expansion – logging industries have had to yield to the spotted owl and refineries have had their development thwarted by the sage grouse.
Moreover, only 2 percent of the species originally listed in 1973 have been removed, after billions of dollars have been put towards the effort. Now, Republican lawmakers are attempting to give the responsibility of protecting endangered species to the individual states, and limit the authority of the federal government.
This is a tricky proposition. While individual states might have a better grasp of the needs of their native animals, it is also very possible that the states could put economic considerations before environmental ones.
Is the chasm between industrial and environmental ideologies unbridgeable? On one side, there is the rebuilding of the economy, the development of land and the creation of jobs. On the other, the protection of our most valuable resource – the environment. We must embrace large-scale, environmentally responsible production if we, and wild animals, are to thrive in the long term.
We cannot ignore our own culpability in the potential extinction of animals – humans have encroached irrevocably upon animal habitats, threatening and, in some cases, destroying them. No one would argue that it is to anyone’s benefit to develop and industrialize without regard for the environmental consequences.
However, we are living in an age of economic uncertainty, and economic growth is paramount to a significant segment of the population. Human beings have expanded far and wide – how do we not house and employ them? There are certainly no easy answers. All we can do is encourage conscientious development, care for animals and respect for the planet.
 Brown, Matthew: AP NewsBreak: Changes sought for endangered act Yahoo News 2/4/2014 https://news.yahoo.com/ap-newsbreak-changes-sought-endangered-act-101030526.html