The Endangered Species Act Does More Harm Than Good
PRO (3 arguments)
Endangered Species Act- the law in its current form, without hypothetical reforms or improvements.
According to the US Congress, in the past 30 years, fewer than 50 of the over 1,600 domestic species have been taken off the endangered and threatened species lists. That’s a ridiculously low 3% success rate. And according to Berkeley Law professor Eric Biber, 26 of those 50 were delisted either because the original listing was in error or because the species went extinct! Other studies that show a higher success rate have been disproven by a very reputable comprehensive study done in 2011. A joint study by Harvard researcher Amy Sinden and Cornell researcher Raymond de Young took into account the conflicting data from both sides about the Endangered Species Act. After tracking the population numbers of the species on the Endangered Species Act’s lists, they found that those studies that claimed that the Endangered Species Act was effective had misrepresented the data. Specifically, those studies did not account for other external factors in the species’ environment and habitat and had automatically assumed that the population growths were due to the initiation of the Endangered Species Act. The study concluded that the Endangered Species Act had saved little to no species. Additionally, the researchers found that “the Endangered Species Act produces hopelessly indeterminate results, clouds transparency and undermines public participation by giving controversial and uncertain predictions a false patina of scientific accuracy and objectivity, and it delivers all this regulatory imperfection for a price that is outrageously high, draining needed resources from the real business of saving species.”
The impact of this evidence is that it proves that the Endangered Species Act is ineffective and inefficient at achieving its primary purpose - to repopulate threatened and endangered species. Everyone wants to save endangered wildlife, but judge, clearly the Endangered Species Act is not the best way to do it. By continuing with this law that has proven so ineffective (a 3% success rate), we neglect to find other more successful ways to combat extinction.
Harvard Environmental Law Review; Berkeley Law Review, Climate Change and Backlash by Eric Biber, 2008; The Wall Street Journal
According to a 2009 report by Greenwire citing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the average cost of listing a single species on the Endangered List is $85,000 and the average cost of designating critical habitat is $515,000 per species. Between 2000 and 2009, in just 12 states and the District of Columbia, 14 environmental groups filed 180 federal court complaints to get species listed under the Endangered Species Act and were paid over $11 million in attorneys fees and costs. Also, building habitat is expensive and varies per animal. For example, the costs of designating critical habitats for the California gnatcatcher, a small bird, will average $300 million per year. Not only is it a waste of taxpayer dollars, but the Endangered Species Act harms people’s incomes as well. Farmers in the Klamath Basin of Oregon lost an estimated $54 million of crop value in 2001, due to setting aside land as protected habitat for endangered species under the Endangered Species Act. In fact, the current version of the Endangered Species Act has been in the crosshairs of Congress for a long time. The previous Congress alone introduced over 250 amendments, bills, and riders aimed at changing the law, according to Cassandra Carmichael, the executive director of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment.
Clearly, the Endangered Species Act is inefficient and wasteful. Saving endangered species can be done more cheaply and effectively and that’s why Congress is trying to change the law. The law as it stands now clearly does more harm than good.
Property and Environment Research Center
In early 2006, landowners in Boiling Springs Lakes, North Carolina, began clear-cutting timber from their property after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that development could threaten local red-cockheaded woodpecker populations. The government released plans to identify additional habitats, prompting landowners to grab their chainsaws to clear their property of the trees, which are the woodpeckers’ habitats, before their land could be designated as endangered species habitat. “People are just afraid a bird might fly in and make a nest and their property is worth nothing,” Boiling Springs Lakes mayor Joan Kinney said. The situation was a predictable consequence of Section 9 of the Endangered Species Act, as it is illegal for a private landowner to engage in activities that could “harm” an endangered species, including habitat modification, without first obtaining a federal permit. Similar occurrences have happened with spotted owls, Texas songbirds, and Preble’s meadow jumping mouse. A study by economist John List provided powerful evidence that the Endangered Species Act is discouraging species conservation on private land and that the net effect of the Endangered Species Act on private land is negative. Given that habitat loss represents the greatest threat to endangered species, this should be of concern. Most land--approximately 2/3 of the continental United States--is privately owned. The relative importance of such lands for the maintenance of species habitat and critical ecological functions is perhaps even greater. Over three-fourths of those species currently listed as threatened or endangered rely upon private land for some or all of their habitat, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office. According to an article in the economic journal, Freakanomics, the Endangered Species Act is ironically actually CAUSING harm to endangered species, by incentivising land owners to clear their land before an endangered species can call it home. This leads to pre-emptory deforestation and land clearing, that actually speeds up the rate of wildlife extinction!
The impact of this is clearly the opposite of what the Endangered Species Act was supposed to do. Instead of preserving endangered wildlife, the Act is actually proactively causing more harm than good by increasing the rate of habitat destruction.
CATO Institute; Journal of Freakanomics, an economics publication