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  Environmental Policy Issues

Endangered Species Issues
(Released November 1998)

 

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The first Congressional Research Service (CRS) Report, Endangered Species: Continuing Controversy (September 15, 1998) addresses the controversy surrounding the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA).

The second CRS report, Endangered Species List Revisions: A Summary of Delisting and Downlisting (January 5, 1998) outlines the process and reasons for delisting or downlisting, and summarizes the 27 species delisted due to extinction, recovery, or data revision, and the 22 species that have been downlisted from endangered to threatened status due to stabilized or improving populations.

The third CRS report, Wildlife Restoration Projects Fund (May 2, 1997) discusses this program, which provides federal grants-in-aid to state agencies for conservation through land and water management for wild birds and mammals.

© Copyright 1998, All Rights Reserved, CSA

 

CRS Reports

Endangered Species: Continuing Controversy

Summary

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) has been one of the most controversial of all environmental laws. Undoubtedly, the controversy stems from the strict substantive provisions of this law compared to many other environmental laws which tend to be more procedurally oriented or to permit greater administrative discretion. As a result of the ESA's standards, the Act often plays a role in disputes in which all sides agree that a given species is not the center of the debate.

The focus in the 104th Congress was on ESA funding matters and various amendments to appropriations bills, as well as attempts at more comprehensive revisions of the Act. The only enactments affecting ESA were two moratoria on further listings, and a provision in the immigration bill exempting certain border activities of the Immigration and Naturalization Service from the Act. The FY1997 appropriations bill included a listing moratorium but provided for a presidential waiver that was invoked shortly after the bill was signed. The authorization for spending under ESA expired on October 1, 1992. The prohibitions and requirements of the Act remain in force, even in the absence of an authorization, and funds were appropriated to implement the administrative provisions of the Act in both sessions.

Few observers expect to see a comprehensive reauthorization of ESA signed into lawduring the 105th Congress. However, in recent weeks, there have been repeated reports of an effort to reach a compromise on S. 1180, a bill to reauthorize the Act (reported by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works). Key players, besides the bill's cosponsors include the Administration and the Senate majority leader. The effort is said to represent an attempt to "lay down a marker" for the 106th Congress, since most observers see at most a small chance in the remaining time of reaching a compromise that can pass in both chambers.

A few observers suggest that pieces of S. 1180 might be added to the Interior appropriations bill, but this action might pull apart the fabric of the compromises already in the bill, according to some of the bill's advocates. Objections to portions of the bill range from its failure to include compensation for property rights to the higher cost of administering a more complex law (i.e., less conservation per dollar appropriated). Whether those willing to accept compromise on some points outnumber those who wish to pass only a far-reaching bill remains to be seen. H.R. 2351, a bill supported by much of the environmental community, has drawn a number of cosponsors, but has not been scheduled for hearings.

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Endangered Species List Revisions: A Summary of Delisting and Downlisting

Summary

The question of whether the Endangered Species Act (ESA) "works" is an important part of the debate before Congress concerning both its annual appropriations and reauthorization of the Act itself. Information on the species that have been delisted or downlisted from the Lists of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants is ofien cited when judging the ESA's success or failure. This report outlines the process and reasons for delisting or downlisting, and summarizes the 27 species delisted due to extinction, recovery, or data revision, and the 22 species that have been downlisted from endangered to threatened status due to stabilized or improving populations.

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Wildlife Restoration Projects Fund

Summary

Since 1937, a cooperative program between the federal and state governments has existed for wildlife restoration. This program provides federal grants-in-aid to state agencies for conservation through land and water management for wild birds and mammals. While up to 8% of the collected revenues from excise taxes dedicated to the program may be retained by the federal government for administration, all remaining funds are apportioned to the states and territories for use either in wildlife restoration or hunter safety and education programs.

Wildlife restoration programs receive all funds generated from the excise tax on firearms other than pistols and revolvers and all funds collected from shells and cartridges. Additionally, one-half of the excise taxes collected from pistols, revolvers, and archery equipment goes for wildlife restoration purposes. Hunter safety and education programs are funded from the remaining half of excise taxes collected on pistols, revolvers, and archery equipment. The states have been authorized by law to use bunter safety and education funds for wildlife restoration projects.

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