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Wildlife:
endangered species act; interstate compact

Our Position: oppose
Bill Number: SB1395
Sponsor: Allen: Gould, Klein, et al
Legislative Session: 2011 Legislative Session

SB1395 endangered species act; interstate compact (Allen:  Gould, Klein, et al) allows the governor to enter into an interstate compact on endangered species, but is clearly intended to undercut and supplant the Endangered Species Act.  It would make it illegal for a government official to enforce federal laws or regulations relating to endangered species in the state of Arizona.  It also contains many weak and ambiguous provisions.  The strength of the ESA has always been its commitment to science.  It helps to focus wildlife management and conservation on science with biologists and wildlife managers driving the recovery efforts, rather than politics.

Status

For more information and a detailed status on the bill, click on SB1395.

Action Needed

To take action on this bill as well as SB1392, a measure to remove protections for endangered Mexican gray wolves, please click on Protect Endangered Species.

You can also find your senator's contact information by clicking on Senators.

Contact

Sandy Bahr at (602) 253-8633 or sandy.bahr@sierraclub.org

Background

Arizona has 56 federally listed endangered or threatened species, including 37 animals and 19 plants.  We have more species on the path to extinction than 41 other states in the United States.  As habitat is degraded or destroyed, many species are negatively affected and their populations decline.

Congress passed the Endangered Species Act in 1973 to give these species a lifeline and to provide for their recovery.  The intent of the act is to "provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered and threatened species depend may be conserved, and to provide a program for the conservation of these species." Many species, including bald eagles, Florida manatees, American alligators, grizzly bears and California condors, were brought back from the brink of extinction with the help of the ESA.

While the ESA provides a lifeline to species, without a concerted effort to protect habitat and to eliminate the factors that promote species endangerment, these plants and animals are destined to have a precarious future and many will face extinction. 

The ESA requires that species be added to the list of endangered or threatened species for a number of reasons including habitat destruction and other human activities that negatively impact the species and its chance of survival. It also requires that the agency identify and designate critical habitat for the species and develop a recovery plan.  Neither federal agencies nor private landowners may destroy or adversely modify critical habitat of any listed species without obtaining a "take" permit.

The strength of the ESA has always been its commitment to science.  It helps to focus wildlife management and conservation on science with biologists and wildlife managers driving the recovery efforts, rather than politics.

SB1395 endangered species act; interstate compact (Allen:  Gould, Klein, et al) allows the governor to enter into an interstate compact on endangered species, but is clearly intended to undercut and supplant the Endangered Species Act.  It would make it illegal for a government official to enforce federal laws or regulations relating to endangered species in the state of Arizona.  It also contains many weak and ambiguous provisions. 

SB1395 fails to incorporate the federal standards of the ESA requiring management decisions to promote the recovery of the species.  Instead it states the goal is establish “viable populations of endangered or threatened species in locations compatible with human activity.”  Subordinating "viable" to "compatible with human activity" is no protection at all as it is far too vague. The term "viable" should be linked to an appropriate federal term with a track-record of interpretation in the courts.  At a minimum the term should be more clearly defined, and not just in relation to numerical "viability," but also to genetic viability and effective populations with a probability of remaining viable for a minimum, specified period.  Thus, while the language is clearly intended to sound “reasonable,” upon closer inspection it is actually a plan to lower the bar and avoid making management decisions based on the best science available, as is required by the ESA. 

 Much of the language in the measure appears to be an invitation to a "race-to-the-bottom," in other words it effectively mandates the lowest common denominator of consensus approach to individual state endangered and threatened species legislation.  Ironically, the requirement for uniform penalties – civil as well as criminal – would have Arizona effectively surrender its own core sovereignty to define and punish offenses and limit its protection by adopting measures touted by other states. 

This bill is premature at best and at worst is a blatant attempt to promote a compact that conflicts with the U.S. Congress' determination that endangered and threatened species (and the habitats upon which they depend) require management at the national level and through science-based distinct population segments.

     
     

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