Endangered Species Act
Bill in Brief
The decades old Endangered Species Act is up for renewal - giving its critics a chance to loosen up the act's restrictions on development while putting environmentalists on the defensive.
The proposed changes
In the House...
The version passed in the House would no longer designate "critical habitats" for endangered species but instead create broader, "nonbinding" plans that use financial incentives, to protect species.
It would also give the Interior Department longer to approve or disapprove a development project - up from 90 days to 180 days - but if the feds don't make a decision in that time, developers are automatically green-lighted.
Finally, the House bill directs the Interior Department to set scientific standards for deciding when a species has become endangered, rather than letting scientists decide on a case by case basis as they do now.
Supporters say the bill will cut down on red tape and unnecessary lawyering. Critics worry the House bill will make the ESA toothless.
In the Senate...
The Senate hasn't tossed together a bill yet, but CongressDaily reports that Senate leaders are likely to also propose financial incentives for landowners to keep species alive, although they may be less generous than the House's incentives.
Status: The House passed its version in September 2005. The Senate never got around to introducing its bill in 2006. It's unclear where - if anywhere - a democratic Congress will take the ESA in 2007, but a second bill in the Senate would offer tax incentives for landowners to protect endangered species.
For more reading see The Washington Post.
Updated March 5, 2007
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