'Tis a body oft-debated and derided, pilloried but powerful: a collection of 535 congressmen, though really 435 of these are representatives, in the House of Representatives, where they represent districts as diverse as the American character itself. The Senate has 100 members, but because of the allocation of two senators to each state, no matter the population, Western interests historically have had a decided advantage in looking after the industries that mine, drill, graze, farm, etc., in that general area of the country. Western reps also have a bigger stake in how the Endangered Species Act is administered because more land in the West is home to species on the threatened and endangered list than in any other region, including the Southeast, which also has many listed species dwelling in its streams, rivers and other habitats. (Query the FWS database here.)

Thus, congressional committees with jurisdiction in the area of natural resources are often controlled by Westerners. So, the House Natural Resources Committee and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are chaired by members from Washington (Republican Rep. Doc Hastings) and California (Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer), while the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is chaired by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

In the all-important appropriations arena, the pattern holds in the House but not the Senate. The House Appropriations Committee's Interior subcommittee is chaired by Rep. Michael Simpson (R-Idaho). On the Senate side, the corresponding subcommittee is led by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), representing a state with about a dozen listed species, depending how you count them.

Congress's interest in the ESA usually manifests itself in hearings focusing on one aspect or another of the law. But congressional attention has not resulted in changes to the core Act in more than two decades, despite the regularly repeated plaint that the law has not been "reauthorized" in decades. (In Congress, annual appropriations provide the requisite authorization for the laws that have not been reauthorized in accordance with the original legislation. That includes most of them.)

But that's enough background. Below are some more links to information on, and from, Congress.



Author info

[suffusion-the-author display='description']