Bill would restore Endangered Species Act's original intent

Posted: Tuesday, November 26, 2002

When the new Congress convenes the first of the year it will have before it a remarkable bill, one we all

can hope will receive quick and favorable attention before a House and Senate in Republican hands.

The measure was filed in the lame duck session that met after the election. It was sponsored by Rep. James Hansen of Utah, who is retiring and giving up his post as chairman of the House Resources Committee.

The goal is simple: to restore to its original purpose the Endangered Species Act. Passed 30 years ago with all good intentions, the law has been contorted in alarming ways that have cost Americans millions and millions of dollars and shut down countless projects that would have benefited local communities all across the land.

''I'm just greasing the wheels for change here, giving my colleagues something they can act on swiftly in the next Congress,'' Hansen said.

Just in time, we'd say.

Said Hansen:

''After working with this law during my 22 years in Congress, I've concluded it's the most powerful law in the land. It can be used to thwart everything from the training of our fighter pilots to the farmer's simple desire to plant a crop in his field so he can feed his family.''

Under the law as it has been interpreted, he said, ''the rights of an endangered fly or a species of seaweed take precedence over national security, commerce and many people's right to the enjoyment of property and the pursuit of happiness.''

His bill would exempt from provisions of the act private property, military lands and all plant life.

Doing this, Hansen said, would, in short order, provide ''a more prosperous and secure nation and still have a healthy and abundant wildlife.''

How simple this task should be in the new Congress. The Democrats and their zealous backers in the environmental lobbies will raise great objections, of course.

But the nation called for change in the November elections. And this is a change that would do wonders.

''I'd wager my federal pension you could make these changes and the populations of threatened and endangered species would remain the same,'' Hansen said. ''The numbers didn't improve when we started stripping people of their rights. I doubt they would go down any once we restore those rights.''

Altogether, a marvelous proposal.

Now let's see what happens.

-- The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times - Nov. 21



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