Issues

EDITORIAL: Update Endangered Species Act for minnow and ABQ water users

By February 13, 2014 February 15th, 2016 No Comments

Feb. 11–………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

To date the 1973 Endangered Species Act has had very limited success, resulting in just 2 percent of protected species being taken off the list. So relying on it to save the Rio Grande silvery minnow, sans science and a rational balance of environmental and human needs, likely has as much promise as ESA-driven efforts to save the northern spotted owl.

While seriously affecting the human population of central New Mexico in the process.

To wit, it turns out the northern spotted owl is being driven out of Oregon, Washington and Northern California by the aggressive and adaptable barred owl, not the logging industry that was devastated in the hopes of restoring the owl’s population.

Now, in the midst of a drought, WildEarth Guardians plans to file suit under the ESA to restore the Rio Grande’s natural ecosystem and water flows to save the minnow, this time at the expense of human water use.

Quite simply, there isn’t enough water to go around. With the state entering a fourth consecutive year of drought, water managers say they have been “trying to find creative ways to get everyone what they need.” WildEarth Guardians says it hasn’t been enough, river managers haven’t restored habitat and the river’s natural flow per a 2003 plan developed after similar litigation, and the minnow hasn’t spawned in three years.

Instead, what’s spawning is another protracted legal battle to save a species that under current environmental conditions might not be saveable.

A group of House Republicans is calling for an overhaul of the Endangered Species Act, with states getting more authority over the imperiled plants and animals and litigation from wildlife advocates limited. Forty years after the act was signed into law, a review of what has worked and what hasn’t is long overdue.

So is having science rather than raw emotion drive actions under the act, prioritizing keystone species, acknowledging that some environmental conditions cannot and perhaps should not be controlled, and factoring in the true needs of human as well as animal and plant populations.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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