GOP group eyes the Endangered Species Act

May 14, 2013

A gray wolf, an endangered species
Credit AP Photo

A group of Republicans in Congress is casting an eye on the Endangered Species Act. The law was approved in 1973 with encouragement by the Nixon administration to help prevent threatened plants and animals from becoming extinct. The federal threatened and endangered list includes several Michigan species like the Kirtland’s warbler and the piping plover.

The new GOP Endangered Species Act Working Group includes west Michigan Congressman Bill Huizenga of Zeeland. He says the 13-member group is “geographically balanced” and has no pre-set agenda. Huizenga says it’s just time to review the 40-year-old law again. Last reauthorized by Congress in 1988, it has often been controversial, especially when preserving threatened and endangered species collides with the interests of private property owners. Huizenga says the federal government should have a “balanced” approach to such disputes. He says some federal officials have been “over-zealous” at times in the way they have enforced the law. The Endangered Species Act is administered jointly by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Rep. Bill Huizenga (R-MI)
Credit Congressman Bill Huizenga

Huizenga says the act has been very successful in preventing the extinction of endangered species. But he says it has been less successful in graduating them off the list once the threats have passed. He also says there have been conflicts between state and federal officials in how the law has been enforced.

Some Democrats are suspicious about Republican motives on the issue. In an op-ed piece in Roll Call that did not specifically address the new working group, Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva accused his Republican colleagues of wanting to “gut” the Endangered Species Act. Grijalva says, “The Endangered Species Act is too valuable to shred for the sake of a pesticide company’s bottom line”. But Huizenga says Grijalva’s comments are wide of the mark. He says the ESA should be periodically reviewed like any other law passed by Congress.

Huizenga says the Republican ESA working group plans to begin holding hearings on the issue this summer.