Albion Monitor /News
[May 7 Update: By a narrow vote of 227-196, the House voted against the amendment that would have severely weakened the Endangered Species Act.

The bill, HR 478, was co-sponsored by a cotillion of far-right Republican members of the House, including Jerry Lewis and Sonny Bono of California and Helen Chenoweth (Idaho). Among those voting to weaken the Act was Frank Riggs (R - Scotia). Only 54 Republicans were opposed to the anti-environmental bill.

According to first reports from the Associated Press, floor debate was heated. Rep. Bruce Vento (D - MN) accused the bill's sponsors of "exploiting these human tragedies" by using the floods to engineer "a wholesale retreat" from the Endangered Species Act. East Bay Rep. George Miller likewise argued, "You don't have to blow a hole in the Endangered Species Act to take care of this (flood damage) problem."

Republican supporters of the Bill countered that it was a choice of protecting people instead of bugs, according to AP. "Are we going to spend all kinds of resources to protect the beetle?" asked Rep. Chenoweth.

An editorial on this bill will appear in the next issue of the Albion Monitor.]

Flood Control Could Damage Endangered Species Protection

Would exempt from Endangered Species Act protection almost any activity associated with flood control
(ENS) WASHINGTON -- An urgent alert has gone out from forest activists concerned that the Endangered Species Act (ESA) may be weakened by flood control legislation coming up for a vote in Congress.

Endangered species protectionists are lobbying hard against riders they expect will be attached to bills in both the House and the Senate. Idaho Republican Senator Larry Craig is expected to propose a rider to the Flood Supplemental Appropriations bill which would exempt from Endangered Species Act protection almost any activity associated with flood control facilities.

In addition, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas will offer a rider that would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to replace the listing of endangered species and development of recovery plans with what the activists say are "unenforceable and unscientific" pre-listing agreements.

People who have lost everything to floodwaters can be expected to support flood control activities above other priorities
In the House of Representatives last week, California Republican Vic Fazio's rider passed the House Appropriations Committee attached to the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Bill. The rider waives the Endangered Species Act during federal flood control actions. Pressure from the protectionist lobby caused the language of the rider to be changed somewhat in favor of stronger protection for endangered species, but the language still could be changed. Rep. Don Young may be planning to remove the rider from the Appropriations bill as he reportedly believes that the watered-down rider does not go far enough to render the ESA ineffective.

In the House the Flood Prevention and Family Protection Act of 1997, (HR 478) Amends the Endangered Species Act to exempt from provisions requiring consultation and conferencing with the Secretary of the Interior any agency action that consists of: (1) building, operating, maintaining, or repairing a Federal or non-Federal flood control project, facility, or structure to address a critical, imminent threat to public health or safety, or a catastrophic natural event or to comply with Federal, State, or local public health or safety requirements; or

(2) routine operation, maintenance, rehabilitation, repair, or replacement of a Federal or non-Federal flood control project, facility, or structure, including operation of a project or a facility in accordance with a previously issued Federal authorization.

It provides that any activity by a Federal or non-Federal person that consists of such an action is not a taking of a species for purposes of the Act. Sponsored by Wally Herger, California Republican, and 23 others including California Republican Ricard Pombo, it was placed on the calendar April 24 and could come to a vote Wednesday, May 7.

Brian Vincent, Conservation Director of the Northwest Ecosystem Alliance says if the legislation passes the situation would be very damaging for endangered species.

"Section 3(a) of the Herger/Pombo ESA waiver would exempt the Army Corps of Engineers and other dam building agencies from the consultation requirements of the ESA. Under section 7 of the ESA, federal agency actions must not adversely impact endangered and threatened species. In order to avoid adverse impacts, agencies check with biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or the National Marine Fisheries Service, who then suggest alternative courses of action if needed. Section 7 is one of the most successful programs under the ESA - only 0.05% of 190,000 consultations have been withdrawn or canceled because of the ESA, while hundreds of species have been protected."

"Section 3(b) of the Herger/Pombo ESA waiver would exempt both non-federal and Federal dam builders, such as hydroelectric utilities, from the "take" prohibition of the ESA. Under section 9 of the ESA, a "take" of an endangered species occurs when it is harmed, either directly or through habitat destruction. H.R. 478 would change that definition by exempting every activity remotely associated with flood control."

People who have lost everything to floodwaters in many sections of the United States during the past winter and spring can be expected to support flood control activities above other priorities. If they do, endangered species may lose what little protection they have.

This article has been copied with permission from the EnviroLink Network (, it may not be copied or reproduced in any medium without the express written consent of the EnviroLink Network. For reprinting information, call 412-683-6400 or write to:

Comments? Send a letter to the editor.

Albion Monitor May 6, 1997 (

Contact for permission to reproduce.

Front Page