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Economic Impacts of the Endangered Species Act

Thomas L. Sansonetti, Public Land Law (1992)

For the past six months, my office was tied up with the Spotted Owl hearings in Portland and in Washington, and I'm still paying for it out of this year's budget. As a result, we have change the way in which we plan and budget for what we call the “expected unforeseen” demands on my lawyers and our clients. Realizing the need to plan for the expected unforeseen is a real economic impact of the ESA. And becoming far more prevalent as once exotic species become listed on their way to becoming household names like:

the California gnatcatcher,

the desert tortoise,

the black-footed ferret

the Colorado squawfish,

the delta smelt,

the Pacific salmon

the Kangaroo rat

Developers and their lawyers are learning, in most instances for the first time, how powerful, but also how rigid and inflexible the existing ESA is. Attorneys for the Sierra Club Legal [10-2] Defense Fund call it the strongest environmental law on the books. The U.S. Supreme Court got it right when it summarized the plain intent of Congress: to halt and reverse the trend towards species extinction, whatever the cost. This is reflected not only in the stated policies of the Act, but in literally every section of the statute.” Tennessee Valley Authority v. Hill 437 U.S. at 184. (the snail darter case)

Right here, I want to preface my remarks.