Bill to delist species that haven’t increased in population and impose economic hardship.

A bill has been introduced to the US House of Representatives by Representative Joe Baca of California which would declare a species extinct if it hasn’t increased in population during the 15 years since it was listed and imposes an economic hardship on the communities located in the range of the species.

Below is the text of the language to be added to the ESA if the legislation is successful:

THOMAS (Library of Congress)

    Section 4(a) of the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (16 U.S.C. 1531 et sq.) is amended by adding at the end the following new paragraph:
    `(4) Treatment of Certain Species as Extinct- (A) A limited listed species shall be treated as extinct for purposes of this Act upon the expiration of the 15-year period beginning on the date it is determined by the Secretary to be an endangered species, unless the Secretary publishes a finding that–
    • `(i) there has been a substantial increase in the population of the species during that period; or
    • `(ii) the continued listing of the species does not impose any economic hardship on communities located in the range of the species.
    `(B) In this paragraph the term `limited listed species’ means any species that is listed under subsection (c) as an endangered species for which it is not reasonably possible to determine whether the species has been extirpated from the range of the species that existed on the date the species was listed because not all individuals of the species were identified at the time of such listing.’.

35 Responses to “Bill to delist species that haven’t increased in population and impose economic hardship.”

  1. jonolan Says:

    It makes good sense.

    List a specie as extinct in any given range if it there’s no evidence to support that it’s still there after 15 years from being listed as endangered in that range unless not listing it as extinct doesn’t pose a hardship on people living there.

    Seems sensible enough.

    • JimT Says:

      Unreasonable. Intentional effort to further weaken the ESA. The burden is ass backwards; the burden should be to prove the species is extinct, not to presume it is unless some vague standard of ‘significant increase” and some obscure standard of “imposing an economic hardship”. Tell me..what current species would fit the bill of “imposing an economic hardship”…Gee I wonder what that species would be….

  2. Kropotkin Man Says:

    So a species gets listed, industry continues to hammer at it’s habitat (old growth timber in NW) the population decreases (spotted owls) and is therefore taken off the list. Industry then has a free hand to slick off any remaining timber. Industry pockets the cash and moves on.
    Done deal. No ESA, no habitat, no owls, no jobs, just devastation.

    Bet industry loves Joe Baca.

  3. Alan Says:

    So there’s only a few specimens left. They get mysteriously killed off or they mysteriously disappear, same thing. Done deal. No ESA, no habitat, etc.

  4. wolfsong Says:

    This is being done by California because of a small fish. They have lost some of their water rights because of water flow needed for the fish to survive and are throwing a fit over it. It doesn’t matter if it is a minnow or an elephant, EXTINCT is forever and we should not allow them to weaken the ESA, nor allow extinction of a species.

  5. cc Says:

    The species that led Baca to create this bill is not a wolf, owl, or fish. It’s an insect, the Delhi Sands flower-loving fly:

    It would set a dangerous precedent and by focusing on a less charismatic species it just might pass.

  6. mikepost Says:

    I agree that this legislation is flawed but I also disagree with many here who hold “extinction” as some sin against nature. No species alive today would be here if other species had not gone extinct before them and left them room to develop. Extinction is a normal and valuable process in the overall evolution of life.
    I would cite the condor as a poster child for this political effort. 20 years, over $45 million dollars (direct costs) and they still cannot survive unaided in the wild. Even now every nest must be cleaned of micro trash so the dumb chicks dont eat it and kill themselves. On top of that, the turkey vulture has claimed their ecological niche and does it 10x better. Some times its just time…

    • Alan Says:

      I think the question to ask is: What caused or is causing the extinction? Is it natural or because of man? (Though that can be a dangerous question to ask as well). This is where someone always steps up and insists that, “Man IS part of nature!” Man WAS part of nature before he started building machines, fouling the air and water, poisoning the food chain and constructing weapons capable of wiping out every living thing on the planet.
      Endangered Species not showing any significant increase need more protections, not less. A fly simply sets a precedent.

    • JimT Says:

      You seem to be conveniently omitting the role of mankind and its activities in this time of the most species going extinct in recorded history. Certainly species have gone extinct in the past due to planetary and climate events; what is different now is the preventable role of man in accelerating that rate of extinction.

      20 years, 45 million. A drop in the bucket in terms of budgets, mikepost, and you know it. As for the micro trash that is helping to cause chick mortality…that wouldn’t be human in origin, would it? And you are calling the chicks dumb?

      A biologically diverse ecosystem is a healthy ecosystem. One of the reasons for the tremendous damage the pine beetle is doing in Colorado is a monculture forest ecosystem.

  7. cc Says:

    Actually, the condor is the poster child of how a reintroduction cannot fully succeed unless the causes that led to the species decline are fully addressed. Like a lot of endangered species, condors have a low reproductive rate which simply cannot withstand a high level of human cause mortality. Historically shooting and lead poisoning led to their decline, and while a few illegal shootings continue today the main threat to the entire populations is lead poisoning (micro trash in only an issue in s.CA). Lead ammunition was banned within their range in California, but condors kept getting poisoned because folks were allowed to use lead when hunting wild pigs and other game. Now that ban includes all hunting in the recovery area. As with the ban on lead shot for waterfowl hunting it will likely take a decade or more for anything close to full compliance (and to therefore to judge the effectiveness of the ban). Only a voluntary ban is in effect in AZ, UT, and NV and condors continue to get poisoned when doing exactly what they’re supposed to do: eat dead animals.

    Micro trash being fed to chicks by adults is a huge problem, but only in southern California. And where is this micro trash coming from? People! We trash the environment and then want a species to go extinct because they can’t adapt to our mess within a few generations. Micro trash is a costly and serious problem and so far biologists haven’t found a way to stop it (other than Californians to clean up after themselves and stop trashing the environment). They have tried aversive conditioning and providing calcium chips near release sites with little to no success so far. It’s thought the condors may be mistakenly feeding their chicks small pieces of garbage as they do small pieces of bone and pebbles to provide calcium. Condors in Arizona have a more pristine environment, a wider foraging range for food, and less people (litterers) than southern California so micro trash isn’t an issue there (but lead poisoning and illegal shootings are). Arizona has seen 11 chicks successfully fledged with 7 still alive (1 starved, 1 died of lead poisoning, and 2 are missing in action).

    The price tag for condor recovery gets thrown around a lot, usually exaggerated and without sources. Whether the total is 20 million or 45 million, what is lost or ignored by most is that the state and federal governments contribution (and taxpayers) is quite modest. The main contributors by far are the captive breeding facilities (San Diego Wild Animal Park, LA Zoo, The Peregrine Fund, Oregon Zoo) and the non-profits that manage and monitor some of the wild populations (The Peregrine Fund and Ventana Wilderness Society). The USFWS spends around 1 million a year on condors, while the Peregrine Fund and San Diego WAP spend closer to 2 million. If cost is anyone’s main concern then a while lot of species will be allowed to go extinct. According to the 2009 State And Federal Expenditures on Endangered and Threatened Species ( here are a few combined state and federal totals by species for 2009:

    A total of $1.5 million (1.2 million in CA and 349,000 in AZ/UT) was spent on the condor. Sounds like a lot right? Wrong. Just to name a few: $7.4 million for Grizzly Bears (2.4 for Yellowstone DPS, 5 for rest of lower 48), $13.4 million for Southwestern Willow Flycatchers, $16.4 million for Right Whales, $25 million for Desert Tortoises, and $251 million!!! for the Chinook Salmon (combined for all rivers and runs). So the total for Chinooks in 2009 alone was 5 to 10 times the total spent on condors in the 38 years since the ESA was signed in to law.

    The total condor population has gone from 22 in 1982 up to 350 today and from being extinct in the wild to 180 in the wild today. Most would say that’s very successful. Yes, they won’t be self sustaining until lead bullets are gone from their entire range. And yes, they won’t be fledging enough chicks in southern California until the micro trash issue is solved. But those are human causes to their mortality, and needless ones at that. I refuse to accept they should go extinct because our lead bullets are killing them and because Californians have a littering problem.

    In the majority of cases the reasons endangered species are still endangered is because: it took a century worth of decline to bring them down to such low levels while we’ve only had an ESA to reverse that for 38 years, the reasons they declined still exist (habitat loss, human cause mortality), and because the species and those of us that fight for their conservation have to battle every single damn day against all the human greed, avarice, and ignorance that would erase them from the face of the earth.

    • mikepost Says:

      CC: the real point is that the turkey vulture has taken over the historic condor range and does not suffer from the condor’s problems. Mankind/civilization is now part of the ecosystem and it will not go away. Critters that have evolutionary advantages in adapting to those human conditions are going to be more succesful and will supplant species that cant.
      Lastly, funding for ESA recovery issues will always be finite and there is a need to make cost/benefit analysis and choose the species to support accordingly. Even some officials of the Audubon Society will, privately, bemoan the money lavished upon condors that is not available for other avian species where it might have greater impact on numbers and health.
      Careers and businesses have grown up around the condor program, including several full time employees of the USFW that do nothing but shepherd the condors, including the continueing use of feeding stations and radio tracking.
      We cant avoid making hard decisions just because we dont like being forced to make a Sophie’s Choice. There will never be enough money to fund all the ESA programs with merit, so triage, however distasteful, is required. Failure to live up to this responsibility gives the proponents of this legislation more evidence that the system does not work.

      • JimT Says:

        yes, and there hundreds of employees in the Ag. Dept. whose job it is to ensure the subsidies flow unimpeded, and I find this kind of activity much more objectionable than several scientists trying to find a way to fix a species that we screwed up.

        As for cost benefit analysis for environmental issues, big red herring. What is, for example, the benefit of a sunrise in Monument Valley? Grand Canyon? People have been trying to quantify the benefits of a species or a place for decades, and failing. The only time cost-benefit analysis seems to please people is when it is used by industry to justify an expansion of their behaviors at the expense of the natural environment.

        If you accept that idea that nibbling away at environmental protections is a winning strategy, we have already lost. In case you haven’t noticed, the so called other side isn’t interested in anything but the whole pie. So, what, we put our hands in our pockets and meekly step aside? I think it is time activists and strategists started looking to more direct actions to fight this latest deluge of nutcases, industry lackies, and Sagebrush Revivalists.

    • wolf moderate Says:


      Thanks for the info and the excellent way in which you wrote the post. Though I disagree w/ spending money on a species that has very little to any chance at surviving w/o human interaction, it’s nice to know that all funding isn’t coming from the government. At least private funding is being used also.

      Like Mike says, with the growing human population coupled w/ the loss of habitat and polution, the future will be full of difficult decisions when it comes to picking and choosing which species to try and preserve. Funding is “finite” and thus will need to be spent wisely in the coming years.

    • Ken Cole Says:

      From the pdf that cc posted $1.47 billion for ESA listed species in 2009.

      Total expenditures reported for FY 2009 were $1,470,755,607, of which $1,391,246,409 were reported by Federal agencies and $79,509,198 were reported by the States.”

      Click to access 2009_EXP_Report.pdf

      From the Environmental Working Group Farm Subsidy Database $16 billion in 2009 for farm subsidies.

      USDA subsidies in the United States totaled $16.3 billion in 2009.
      In 2009, the top 10 percent of recipients were paid 61 percent of all USDA subsidies.

      • wolf moderate Says:

        Without the subsidies, I would be really worried for the poor. It’s pretty much assured that the 16 billion dollars in “losses” in farm subsidies would be passed on to consumers. Do you think that they would just take a $16 billion hit?

        The low cost for food helps the needy greatly. If it were not for the artificially (through govt subsidies) low prices for food many citizens would be hurt badly.

      • Ken Cole Says:

        It helps the rich a hell of a lot more. So do the slave labor wages they pay immigrant farm workers. Plus, they are being subsidized to grow stuff like high fructose corn syrup and corn for ethanol.

        Get rid of the subsidies for junk food and make them pay competitive wages for American workers. That would change the economy and health of Americans for the better.

      • wolf moderate Says:

        I agree. Slave labor (Illegal aliens) is unacceptable. Deport them and import labor the right way (legally). Of course, paying people a living wage will also make the price of food (all food not just crap) go up drastically. I for one am more than willing to pay more knowing that the cheap prices that we enjoy aren’t on the backs of illegal immigrants.

        Of course all of this will never happen, but it’s nice to dream.

      • JimT Says:

        Read the books by Michael Pollan, especially the chapters on agribusiness, the tremendous waste, the huge subsidies, and the incredible amount of harvest that goes to cattle. There is a ton of room to encourage family farming, healthy farming, and still keep food affordable.

        There is also the localvore movement. Strangely enough, it is viewed as elitist and liberal and out of touch, but at its core is what probably all of our parents and most of us grew up with…local food sources, including our own backyards. So, rather than being something new, it is really a return to part of a lifestyle that is decades old. We just forgot it.

      • wolf moderate Says:

        ” There is a ton of room to encourage family farming, healthy farming, and still keep food affordable.”

        We can’t even put our phones down long enough to help “our” kids w/ there homework. You really expect these lazy people to start gardening?!!! LOL. Like I said, it’s nice to dream.

        It would be nice if ppl would grow there own food, or at least some of it. It would cut down on pollution, traffic, and make people healthier. Unfortunately, we as Americans would rather stuff our face w/ bigmacs and $5 crappacinos or whatever ridiculously priced coffees’ that ya’ll drink.

        I’ll be sure to check that author out. Thx for the info, but this country is so F’d up that we are doomed. Heh, I’m an eternal pessimist!

      • WM Says:


        ++Get rid of the subsidies for junk food and make them pay competitive wages for American workers. That would change the economy and health of Americans for the better.++

        As much as I like that idea (and believe me I do) America cannot survive without immigrant labor at substantially lower wage levels. The way it used to work is immigrant labor came to the US for the harvests working in early Spring in the Southwest and followed the harvest season north finishing in the apple orchards in the Northwest, then went back home to Mexico, where their US dollars went a very long way in their economy.

        It doesn’t work that way anymore. Now we, by acts of omission and failure to to deal with imimigration (because of the complex politics and social issues), allow workers to stay and become citizens by default, and their children become citizens by birth. We are not fixing the problem, only making it worse, because the labor source needs to be replentished over time. And tell us, what do we do with aging immigrant workers who can no longer do the jobs Americans won’t do? They will get picked up by the safety nets that are already over used.

        Junk food – nobody needs it, but it gets marketed and some socio-economic classes are addicted to it.

        Corn syrup, I believe recently, has been shown not to be the problem they initially thought it was, but wait for the next medical review.

        What does all this have to do with the ESA? Well, we just added an additional 10 million people to our US population, and guess who is making the most babies, at a rate only the believers of the Catholic faith can do? Yes, multiply and subdue the earth, and Uncle Sam will pay for what you can’t! Now where in the hell do we get the $$$ and political will to protect all those existing and soon to be endangered species on the brink of extinction, because of all those folks buying Pampers, Hunts catsup, big screen TV’s and driving the big cars nobody else wants.

        Guess who plays big in the 2012 election – practice your Spanish because you will be seeing the adds for sure, and not all will be in English.

      • Brian Ertz Says:

        without subsidies – i would be really worried for the rich.

        perhaps if people were confronted with the actual cost of the systems that produce their “food” – rather than externalizing those costs by exploiting people and the environment – they would not put up with being on the wrong end of the class war in which all the wealth funnels up.

        subsidizing food doesn’t make food affordable — it keeps a few privileged men rich while pacifying the outrage and social upheaval that would otherwise ensue out of economic necessity – economic reality – outrage over the gross misappropriation of wealth.

        as for the anti-immigration sentiment — that’s just become the socially acceptable form of racism or classism – take your pick. keeps us outraged at the dark-skinned underclass while the super-rich make out with all the loot.

      • WM Says:


        I commented purely on economic need for cheap labor, piggybacking on the issue of subsidized agriculture. Then I made an observation regarding the huge impact of in-migration of over 10 million people to the US in the last ten years, or so – people of child bearing age, with a cultural propensity to have large families whether they can afford them or not (with possible consequences in need for aid).

        You then turned it into a slap by calling it racism. Why did I not see that coming? Here is a very telling article that many here should read, since there is little understanding of how this is changing America, and what it ultimately means to a population growth and politics. Lets do remember that meeting the needs of a larger population is to some extent what is putting habitat and endangered species at risk. You just need to connect the dots. Here is one more to dot that needs to be connected and it sure as hell is not good for endangered species moving its way higher up the list of priorities:

  8. Virginia Says:

    cc: Thank you for a thorough and knowledgeable post on the condors. I had no idea this was the situation with this attempt at recovery of a species. I appreciate the time you took to inform us and dispute the ridiculous “bill to delist species that haven’t increased in population and impose “economic hardship.” Sounds like something Julie McDonald invented.

  9. Alan Says:

    It’s all about habitat. You can’t save a species if you can’t save habitat, and that’s what the ESA is really all about. IF you can protect some habitat from man’s greed, then you have a shot; but if “economic hardship” is what it is all about, then the ESA is bound to become just a quaint idea that didn’t work out.
    You know, knapweed and cheatgrass have taken over a lot of native grass habitat, and seem to be doing far better than the natives (once again, thanks to man). Perhaps we should just throw up our hand there as well…..Survival of the fit….perhaps it’s time. You can make that arguement about a lot of things. Ranchers make it about wolves in the lower forty eight. If God had meant there to be wolves here then our grandfathers wouldn’t have been able to wipe them out. Besides, coyotes have taken over that niche and seem to be far more successful……..The arguement could have been made about bald eagles, nearly wiped out by DDT. Well, ya know, mankind and civilization are here to stay, tough luck!
    That’s what the ESA is all about, NOT saying that.

    • mikepost Says:

      Alan, you know those native grasses used to get burned all the time eliminating invasive species. Now that grassland burning is much reduced and mostly due to environmental concerns about air quality. Native plants vs air quality, hard to pick one….

      • Ken Cole Says:

        “you know those native grasses used to get burned all the time eliminating invasive species.”

        Actually the opposite is true. Fire frequencies in the Great Basin have increased and it has a lot to do with livestock grazing and the cheatgrass that you seem to indicating are eliminated by fire. Cheatgrass increases when it burns.

      • mikepost Says:

        Ken, native americans used to burn regularly to stimulate the grass and remove undesireable plants and shrubs.

      • Alan Says:

        After a wildfire burns cheatgrass, native sagebrush in the same range does not grow back. Cheatgrass seeds in the ground outcompete sagebrush seeds. A decrease in sagebrush adversely affects native wildlife species that depend on sagebrush for food, cover, shelter or nesting.

  10. mikepost Says:

    I admire all the chest thumping but it still boils down to committing limited resources to priortized group of listed species. Arguments about saving them all at any cost is to insure that many will go away. The American people have not pushed for more ESA related funding. I appreciate that the decisions are tough. Anyone who has worked as a first responder in a major disaster knows what making hard choices impacting life is all about. The “perfect world” does not exist…

    • JimT Says:

      And how, praytell, do you propose to prioritize them? Ecological importance? Public Support? Degree of political and corporate opposition? What decision would you make about the Florida panther, for example? Does the fact that this Baca burr under the saddle is an insect mean it is not important?

      I am not expecting to save them all; man has done historical and significant damage to habitat that adaptation won’t be possible. But, I do think it is way past time to rein in the trend that corporate interests trump all others no matter the context.

      • mikepost Says:

        To not try and prioritize is to have the default position that we must save them all at any cost…and risk being marginalized in the process as nut cases. I did not say it would be easy.

      • Brian Ertz Says:

        we’ve already been marginalized, politically … take a look at how the Obama administration is handling environmental issues … if that’s the standard, we should have walked away a decade ago. most meaningful effort is spent enforcing laws passed decades ago anyway. NRDC, DOW, etc. couldn’t muster all their combined so-called political capital (allegedly gained, we are told, by licking the boot everywhere else) to be optimistic about picking up one politician it would take to ensure delisting wolves (the most charismatic and widely popular species the ESA has ever known) is kept off the a budget resolution.

        politicians don’t care about any rationally based “legitimacy” so many so-called conservationists proclaim is necessary to be a part of the political process via what amounts to equivocation and selling out existing protections. they care about keeping controversy to a minimum – putting out fires – in this context, the belligerence of anti-wolf/anti-ESA/anti-environmental actors is a political asset, whether it’s justification is based in reality or not.

        JimT is right – it’s time to find ways of agitating a system that has abandoned those values we care about long ago. Environmental advocates don’t need more people to validate our position as legitimate — we need to demonstrate enough conviction about these laws that convinces folk that we ourselves hold the protections as legitimate. Equivocation and perpetual “compromise” sends the message that environmentalists don’t care enough about the laws to fight for them — if they themselves don’t care … why should i ?

      • JimT Says:

        That’s fine, mikepost, but unless you have some set of workable criteria in this political climate…..I would politely suggest we keep fighting to keep the ESA as strong as possible.

  11. Alan Says:

    The figures that Ken posted above really puts it all into perspective.
    If the right-wing-nuts in Congress and some state legislatures have their way they would roll back a hundred years worth of social and environmental advances, and it has as much to do with saving money as keeping bison out of Montana has to do with brucellosis.

  12. frank renn Says:

    Last spring we took our 9 year old grand daughter on a camping, hiking,bird watching trip to the southwest. One of the highlights was when she got to see condors. (Priceless).

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