Your Opinion: Endangered species must be protected

Dear Editor:

Can you imagine an America without the bald eagle? Wouldn’t it speak volumes about the current crop of Americans if we let our national symbol be reduced to extinction? That was exactly the situation for the bald eagle in the 1960s and 1970s. Widespread use of the pesticide DDT, habitat destruction and hunting had driven their numbers dangerously low. See http://mdc.mo.gov/sites/default/files/resources/2010/03/baldeaglemo2012.pdf

The Endangered Species Act (ESA), signed into place in 1973 by Richard Nixon, set in place legislation to protect wildlife and habitats and evidence of its success is our national symbol. Protection of the ESA directly coincides with the increasing population of our bald eagle.

Further evidence of the ESA’s effectiveness is obvious today. Gary Frazer, assistant director of endangered species for the Fish and Wildlife Service, said the act has “remarkable successes,” preventing extinction of hundreds of species and promoting the recovery of the bald eagle, the American alligator, brown pelican, Tennessee purple coneflower and many others.

The Endangered Species Act does not need to changed by reducing its current authority, but it does need to be enforced and taken seriously by much of Congress.

Despite critics’ arguments, the act actually pushes the national economy forward. U.S. consumers, as wildlife watchers, spent nearly $33 billion on wildlife watching alone in 2012 (Outdoor Industry Association).

Many of these took trips to see gray whales, condors, sea otters and other animals that can be viewed only in specific parts of the country. That they can be seen at all is to the act’s credit.

When naysayers make claims for weakening the law, they also reveal indifference to what we nearly lost forever — and what is still at risk. Since the inception of the ESA, human impacts on wilderness have snowballed. Sprawl increases daily, wetlands disappear and special interests seek to undermine environmental protection to increase their profits.

The ESA needs to be in place to act as a balance. It holds legislators and business interests feet to the fire. It requires better enforcement.

Being a conservative used to mean being interested in conservation. I see very little interest on the Republican side now in conserving anything but short-term profit. Great Republicans who took wildlife, habitat and our outdoor heritage seriously, like Teddy Roosevelt, would not fit in today’s conservative political environment.

Their priorities simply wouldn’t match.

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