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The Planet

September 1997, Volume 4, number 7

State of the States: Very Varied Species Laws

by Paula Carrell

State endangered species protection laws vary widely. Some are excellent, others modest, a few not worth the paper they're written on and some states have no state-level program at all. The rise of the "private property rights"challenge to environmental protection laws, while largely unsuccessful at enacting stand-alone "takings"statutes in the states, has succeeded in threatening species protection programs. Some state-by-state examples follow:

FLORIDA The 1997 Florida Legislature approved a bill that will weaken the state's "Preservation 2000"program, Florida's primary tool for protection of threatened and endangered species habitat. The new law shifts the focus of the state lands program away from resource conservation and provision of recreational opportunities toward revenue-generating, multiple-use activities such as cattle grazing, logging, utility corridors, and mining and concessionaire operations.

In addition, funding for the Florida Natural Areas Inventory, which performs surveys and audits of environmentally sensitive lands, has been cut each of the past two years. FNAI keeps a database of the plant and animal species located on public and private lands, which state agencies use in making land management/growth management decisions. Cuts have weakened the mapping information.

For more information: Contact Laurie MacDonald,(813)821-9585;

HAWAII Hawaii's endangered species law currently prohibits incidental take (except for research or propagation) of threatened and endangered species. But this year, large landowners, the Nature Conservancy and the state introduced a bill into the Hawaii Legislature that would have authorized incidental takes without any criteria as to when "take" (killing, harming or destroying the habitat) might be justified. The Sierra Club and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund helped craft a much better bill.

For more information: Contact David Frankel, (808) 538-6616;

KANSAS In response to an agribusiness and developers'bill to gut the state Endangered Species Act, the Kansas Sierra Club proposed that groups who care about this issue get together and talk. The legislature then approved a bill that set up a state endangered species task force of conservation, academic and industry representatives. The task force unanimously supported continuing the requirement that the decision to list a species remain purely a biological decision. With very few changes, the bill passed the legislature and was signed into law after the 1997 session.

For more information: Contact Charles Benjamin, (785) 232-1555;

CALIFORNIA There were more than a dozen California Endangered Species Act bills this year, most of which were products of special interest groups or anti-environmental Republican legislators.

The good news is that all of the "bad"bills have been defeated or at least postponed until next year. The bad news is that this issue of The Planet went to press before we learned whether S. 879, the bill supported by the environmental community, achieved final legislative passage in this legislature which won't adjourn until September. S. 879 addresses the issue of "incidental take"of endangered species, and was triggered by a series of court decisions which held that the administration of California Gov. Pete Wilson did not have authority to issue "take"permits under the state law.

For more information: Contact Bill Craven, (916) 557-1100 ext. 103;

MICHIGAN The Michigan ESA is very similar to the federal act and sounds terrific, with mandatory provisions for review and protection. Unfortunately, there is a lack of funding to collect the essential data, particularly on state lands.

For more information: Contact Judy Thompson, (313) 677-2517;

Back to The Planet September 1997

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