Save the Whales—but Forget the Delta Smelt

Endangered Species Act hurts animals, industry
By Jonas Oransky,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 9, 2007 5:16 AM CDT
This is a file photo of a northern spotted owl taken in Point Reyes, Calif., in June, 1995. A few hundred aggressive barred owls may be killed by agents with shotguns under a proposed federal plan because...   (Associated Press)
camera-icon View 2 more images

(Newser) – The Endangered Species Act , enacted in 1973 to protect the likes of the bald eagle and the California grizzly, is in desperate need of overhaul, the Economist argues. The act’s latest ravagement is the protection of the delta smelt, a three-inch fish a judge deemed important enough late last month to warrant shutting down giant pumps that supply two-thirds of California's water supply.

The 1,251-strong list has become such a burden it even incites farmers to kill creatures before they’re designated—a strategy dubbed “shoot, shovel and shut up.” And it has a “totemic status akin to the Civil Rights Act,” meaning it’s politically impossible to challenge. What’s needed,says the Economist, is a compromise to compel companies to leave light footprints without putting them—or animals—out of business. (Read more Endangered Species Act stories.)