In 1973, the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was created to identify species facing extinction and employ the means to conserve and recover them to healthy populations. But 30 years later, we recognize that the federal government's good intentions have actually done little to recover periled species, and reform is inevitable.
Congressman Greg Walden, R-Ore., is leading the charge to improve the effectiveness of the ESA and has authored an important moderate reform measure that would strengthen the scientific standards used to protect species in need of recovery.
For years, the current scientific standards have been considered the best available. Unfortunately, increasing evidence points to the fact that the standards are often faulty and, in some cases, so limited that sound decisions cannot be accurately assessed.
Since ESA listings began, only 25 species have ever been fully removed - seven due to extinction, and 12 due to faulty science. To improve these statistics, Congressman Walden proposes that the scientific standards used to make determinations under the ESA be modified to ensure that all endangered or threatened actions and listings are based in fact.
Congressman Walden advocates that before a species is classified as endangered or threatened, greater consideration must be given to data that is actually collected during field studies and verified by expert scientists. Standards for the criteria used to determine listing would be established, and data amassed by landowners - who often can provide valuable first-hand information - would be taken into consideration before listing.
Despite the advantages that Congressman Walden's ESA reform legislation will offer to the ESA and to the landowners most affected by today's flawed process, several groups mistakenly believe that the measures would cause more harm than good.
In fact, Congressman Walden's legislation would result in better designation and defense of endangered and threatened species, as well as better protecting landowners who often bear the burden for expensive species rehabilitation and habitat. Congressman Walden's much-needed reform would block extreme environmental groups from abusing the ESA as an anti-growth agent.
Such groups have unfairly villianized Congressman Walden as an anti-environmentalist, when in fact he is a guiding force in ensuring that endangered species remain protected. Congressman Walden has proposed a common sense amendment to an act that clearly needs reform, and he's done so without compromising its original intent - the protection of the more than 1,300 species that are currently named as endangered or threatened.
The National Association of Industrial and Office Properties is in full support of Congressman Walden and this much-needed ESA reform. Deeper research, field studies and established standards will ensure greater accuracy to species, therefore improving the chances of restoring them to healthy populations. Most importantly, landowners would be allowed more involvement in studies taking place on their property.
Thomas J. Bisacquino is president of the National Association of Industrial and Office Properties. Sam K. Briggs is the Oregon chapter president. The NAIOP is the nation's leading trade association for developers, owners, investors and asset managers in industrial, office and related commercial real estate. For more information, visit www.naiop.org.