By Rocky Barker
The House Natural Resources Committee a week ago continued Chairman Doc Hastings' efforts to highlight the problems of the federal Endangered Species Act.
These hearings have been organized primarily from the standpoint of Westerners caught up in the legal maneuvers by wildlife advocates who use the act to protect habitat and carry out other agendas, such as ending grazing on public land.
Hastings starts from a place where most people on both sides can agree: That it is disappointing that the federal Endangered Species Act, the most powerful environmental law ever written, has not been reauthorized - the congressional process in which laws are updated - for 25 years.
Unfortunately, the Hastings hearing underscored the polarized attitudes within the ESA that prevent serious discussion about reform that would make the law more efficient without removing its teeth.
Most Western Republicans want to extract those teeth, turning decisions about protecting species on the brink of extinction over to states.
Most environmental groups are unwilling to even discuss ending the broad powers of the act, because they believe it will make the law powerless to stop habitat destruction.
People closer to the middle on both sides recognize a need to set better priorities for protection. More....