What do the US Presidential Candidates think of the Endangered Species Act?
The Endangered Species Act has not been brought up much by the candidates this election, however it has been in the news recently and depending on which candidate makes it into the White House, the Endangered Species Act could be more in danger.
In August, it came to light that the Bush administration was trying to push through changes to the ESA that would exempt federal agencies from the independent reviews currently mandated for thousands of projects. Instead, agencies would be able to conduct their own reviews to determine whether projects would harm species. This month saw the release of new memos from Bush admin lawyers arguing that the ESA can't be used to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions, even if climate change is melting a species' habitat.
Let's look at the two candidates more closely and see where they stand from what we know.
John McCain has a long history of dealing with other endangered species issues, and on his campaign website, he states that:
The long term success of wildlife and fisheries populations is dependant upon a knowledgeable society invested in the efforts to provide for wildlife access and habitat protection.
He has been a big advocate of whales over the years and in 2001 he cosponsored a deal that called for all parties involved in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species to stop all international trade in whale meat or to engage in any activity that will downsize the whale population. Again in 2005 and 2006 he cosponsored a deal to encourage the International Whaling Commission to oppose all commercial whaling.
In 1999, McCain sponsored legislation requiring study of the habitat of the endangered Sonoran pronghorn antelope, which has a population in his home state of Arizona. Congress had allocated 2.7 million acres of land in the Southwest to the Department of Defense, which conservationists feared would put the pronghorn in danger. McCain's bill mandated that the Interior and Defense departments study the transfer and determine the best natural-resource manager for the range.
However, the red squirrel, also a native of Arizona, and an endangered one, has been mostly ignored, and McCain backed a plan to build the Mount Graham International Observatory, which will take away the squirrel's habitat. It was delayed for a long while, over concerns about the squirrel population, however, earlier this year it was completed and the squirrels remain endangered.
MCain has been an advocat of keeping four dams along the lower Snake River open, even though scientists say they are affecting the endangered salmon species that come up that area. He has been in support of beter fisheries management programs however.
It appears that most wildlife advocates are more concerned about Sarah Palin than about McCain. In the past, she has sued the Interior Department in Alaska over putting the polar bear on its threatened species list as it could affect the oil and gas development in Alaska. She has also been opposed to protecting the Cook Inlet beluga whales, and has urged the federal government not to list them, again saying how that action may threten the oil and gas industry. However, the federal government this month declared the whales endangered.
Barack Obama being still fairly new to these legislations does not have much of a record, but he did oppose Bush's Endangered Species Act changes by saying through his spokesperson:
"This 11th-hour ruling from the Bush administration is highly problematic," said spokesperson Nick Shapiro. "As president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act and undo this proposal from President Bush."
He stated that a salmon recovery plan would be a good idea for the Snake River dams, but said that "all efforts to restore habitat must be exhausted before a dam breaching is considered".
The Humane Society endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket, and Obama has been quoted as saying that:
"I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other. And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."
Of course though, how you vote is up to you, but this is currently where the two candidates stand on this issue.