CONGRESS HAS MANY ENVIRONMENTAL OPPORTUNITIES
Opportunity 1 - According to some predictions, 10-15% of the world's
flora is headed toward extinction within the foreseeable future. One
recent report suggests that the percentages are closer to half of the
plant species on earth because of the high biodiversity in tropical
regions. The issue here is not to quibble over whether 10, 50, or some
in?between percent of the world's plants are going to disappear. The
point is that once percentages reach double digits they are already
too high. Likewise, the global extinction predictions for mammals, amphibians,
and fishes are between 20% and 30%, most of them being in tropical regions.
Opportunity 2 - Another problem that can be addressed at more than one level is that three five-month-old birds recently died in the wild before fledging. This ordinarily would not represent many individuals of a species to die at one time, except for the special situation-the birds were California condors, a species so endangered that these are the first young to be born in the wild in more than 15 years! Even worse are the suspected causes of death. One baby had high levels of copper in its system, and another had eaten several bottle caps, pieces of glass, and plastic. Like other birds, condors bring food to their babies in the nest, so the trash and contamination fed to the young are what the big birds are finding available to bring home. Condors represent a major U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) effort in the last century to save the species from extinction. The few surviving condors were captured, subsequent young being raised in captivity and eventually released into the wild. The recovery plan appears threatened because of a lack of FWS personnel to oversee the project.
A bill needs to be presented in Congress and passed on for rapid signing by President Bush to significantly increase the budget of the FWS, the agency dedicated to protecting endangered species. Proper ecological and behavioral research on wildlife species must be carried out if protection and recovery plans are to be properly implemented for species of concern. A proper level of funding is a requirement. In addition, Congress should pass a resolution endorsing the Endangered Species Act and pledging to strengthen it further by including nationwide protection for endangered plants. Plants are not afforded the same level of protection as animals, so Republicans have a wonderful opportunity to show their commitment to preserving our entire natural heritage rather than just selected animals.
Additional opportunities - The list of ways to make a positive environmental
impact is endless for a situation in which majority votes can be assured
at every level. Besides the obvious protection of wildlife and habitats,
opportunities abound for demanding cleaner air and water through controls
on industrial and agricultural pollution. And we the American public
also have a responsibility. We must keep a close eye on the environmental
progress being made during the next two years so that we can reward
the party in power for all their environmental efforts when the time
comes to return to the polls.