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Fate of the Wild

Fate of the Wild

Bonnie B. Burgess
Copyright Date: 2001
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    Fate of the Wild
    Book Description:

    Given widespread concern over the worldwide loss of biodiversity and popular crusades to "save" endangered species and habitats, why has the Endangered Species Act remained unauthorized since October 1992? In Fate of the Wild Bonnie B. Burgess offers an illuminating assembly of facts about biodiversity and straightforward analysis of the legislative stalemate surrounding the Endangered Species Act. Fate of the Wild surveys the history of and analyzes the conflict over the legislation itself, the heated issues regarding its enforcement, and the land-use and habitat battles waged between conservationists, environmental activists, and private property proponents. Burgess's meticulous and exhaustive research makes Fate of the Wild a valuable resource for professionals in conservation biology, public policy, environmental law, and environmental organizations, while the narrative clarity of the book will appeal to anyone interested in the fate of nonhuman species. Burgess explains how wilderness has been consumed by concrete and asphalt, the effects of toxins on plants and animals, strip mine tailings, oil slicks, and smog. She exposes, as well, the "invisible" damage that manifests itself in the subtle degradation of natural systems and in the increased incidence and number of diseases, the rise in human infertility, and the drastic alteration of weather patterns and landscapes. Fate of the Wild presents a factual and balanced discussion of the various sides of the contemporary debate over the Endangered Species Act, alongside the author's clearly stated position: We are overpopulating, polluting, and overdeveloping our environment, and as a species we have embarked on a crash course toward a sixth great extinction event on this Earth.

    eISBN: 978-0-8203-4024-1
    Subjects: Environmental Science, Political Science, Law

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xiii-xx)

    People are damaging the earth that sustains us and millions of other species at a greater rate than nature can replenish it. Visible evidence abounds; but some of the most alarming indicators are invisible to the average person: these are in the ocean, in the soil, in drinking water, in the cells offish, birds, and higher animals, and in the new weather patterns that sweep the earth.

    Destruction is visible in clear-cut forests in the Pacific Northwest, in oil slicks floating on oceans and rivers, in thousands of fish floating belly-up in the Chesapeake and the Albemarle-Pamlico estuaries due to...

  6. Part One. Setting the Stage

    • Chapter One History of the Endangered Species Act
      (pp. 3-19)

      The Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) makes a strong, unequivocal statement of national policy on species protection [ʃ1531(b)]: “to provide a means whereby the ecosystems upon which endangered species and threatened species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of such endangered species and threatened species and to take steps. . . to achieve the purposes of the treaties and conventions set forth.”

      In writing the ESA, the authors planned to “make a bold collective statement of moral and legal conviction regarding endangered species” (Kohm 1991: 15). The House worked on fourteen different versions; the...

    • Chapter Two The Endangered Species Act Today
      (pp. 20-28)

      After two decades of change through congressional amendments and judicial decisions, the Endangered Species Act of 1973 has remained unauthorized since October 1992. This is the longest it has languished since its enactment. The 104th Congress (1994-96) attempted to reduce the muscle of the law dramatically and to make it friendlier to private property owners, even though there was no evident mandate from the voters 1994 to do so. That Congress failed to pass such legislation, and it took the 105th Congress (1997—98) the entire first session to introduce two reauthorizing bills, one in each house. The House bill...

    • Chapter Three The Importance of Biodiversity
      (pp. 29-44)

      The word biodiversity, the shortened form of biological diversity, was introduced by Dr. Thomas Lovejoy at the first Forum on Biodiversity in September 1986. Biodiversity is a descriptive word and one that is relatively easy to learn: “Probably few words have entered the vocabulary of science and attained widespread acceptance with such ease and speed” Shetler 1991:37). The challenge is to assure that it becomes a common house-hold term, as well understood as, for example, cost of living index.

      Put simply, biodiversity refers to the variety of life forms, the variety of ecological roles, and the diverse genetic composition of...

  7. Part Two. Characters

    • Chapter Four Protagonists and the Environmental Argument
      (pp. 47-60)

      Now that the stage is set, it is time to meet the characters of the endangered species drama. The protagonists—the people fighting for a strengthened ESA—are led by environmental and conservation organizations that represent millions of individuals who want species protected. The antagonists, discussed in the next chapter, do not want see species disappear, but they fight resolutely for the right of property owners to do with their lands as they wish. For many years the sides have been polarized; only recently have signs of a thaw in their relationships begun to appear.

      The strength of the environmental...

    • Chapter Five Antagonists and the Private Property Rights Argument
      (pp. 61-74)

      Private property rights advocates lead the movement to stop ESA intrusion into the plans and decisions of private landowners. Societal reaction to the Endangered Species Act and other environmental protection statutes that demand behavioral changes ranges from indignant protest to outright disobedience of the law. The Endangered Species Act, however, does not treat private and public property equitably, so there is a basis for strong reaction. The takings compensation movement is one response by private property owners to ESA intrusion; another fear response occurs when an owner clears the land—quickly, before the law can be enforced—of any vegetation...

  8. Part Three. Conflict

    • Chapter Six In the Halls of Congress
      (pp. 77-102)

      The political environment has not been friendly to the ESA since it lapsed in October 1992. The Democratic 102nd Congress (1991-92), aware of political forces desiring to weaken the law, avoided bringing reauthorization to the floor. Authorizations for environmental laws have often lapsed for lengthy periods; the ESA survived one earlier long interval between reauthorizations in the 1980s. Congress continued to appropriate funds to implement the statute but evaded major changes to the law by not bringing reauthorization to a vote. Also, the act lapsed near the beginning of a presidential election year, providing another excuse to delay action. There...

    • Chapter Seven Presidential Power
      (pp. 103-111)

      Presidential politics have significantly influenced the implementation of the Endangered Species Act. Presidential attitudes toward the ESA have varied from one administration to the next and have often confounded the bureaucracy’s efforts to implement the act effectively. For most of its years in force, the ESA has been either in disfavor with or ignored by the president. Except for Richard M. Nixon, the anti-ESA presidents were Republican. However, the Democrats who have occupied the office since 1973 cannot be deemed actively pro-ESA.

      Nixon urged Congress to pass the ESA and he signed it into law. The law drew little political...

    • Chapter Eight The Bureaucratic Contribution
      (pp. 112-129)

      The first Fish and Wildlife Service director to have Endangered Species Act enforcement responsibilities was Lynn Greenwalt. He summarized the challenge he and his successors have faced: balancing the statute’s power to disrupt human plans in order to save species with the omnipresent fear that its power might speed its revocation. This is one of the bureaucratic difficulties with the ESA.

      The federal bureaucracy has contributed at least four components to the ESA dilemma. First, implementation standards have varied from one administration to the next. In practice, implementation has been sporadic and unreliable. Second, from the outset the bureaucracy separated...

    • Chapter Nine Species Economics
      (pp. 130-148)

      No discussion of environmental policy would be complete without looking at the economic factors. The economics of endan gered species is a complex topic. Some claim the ESA has put thousands of people out of jobs in the Pacific Northwest; others claim it robs property owners of their intrinsic and constitutional right to use their property to their economic advantage.

      Economic theory views the environment, and especially endangered species, as an “externality” and therefore outside the control of the marketplace. Because biodiversity includes the resources upon which the human race relies for its survival (Watson and Heywood 1995), many scientists...

  9. Part Four. Resolution

    • Chapter Ten Ecosystem Management
      (pp. 151-169)

      In 1987, the Office of Technology Assessment estimated that at least twenty-eight federal laws address the maintenance of biodiversity in some form. These authorities are enforced by a multitude of federal agencies with little or no interagency coordination (Norse 1993). The ESA fosters single-species management practices that are implemented only when the species is declared threatened or endangered. We cannot adequately protect species without managing them in the context of their larger ecosystems, and that requires a collaborative practice called ecosystem management.

      In 1991 Congress asked the National Research Council (NRC) to review the scientific aspects of the ESA and...

    • Chapter Eleven Antidote
      (pp. 170-190)

      From small and homely species to large and majestic ones, from tropical rain forests to desert scrublands to Arctic tundra, all life forms and ecosystems have bearing on the survival of the earth and therefore on the survival of humankind. Nature is and has always been in constant flux—always evolving. The earth has survived single catastrophic events in the past, some of considerable duration.

      Can the earth survive the onslaught of systematic and continuous species loss that it faces today? The answer is up to humankind and will depend on concerted and collaborative effort to work at the conservation...

  10. References
    (pp. 191-200)
  11. Index
    (pp. 201-211)