Republicans Call for Endangered Species Act Overhaul - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

Republicans Call for Endangered Species Act Overhaul

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MISSOULA -

Republicans in Congress are calling for an overhaul of the Endangered Species Act.

Thirteen GOP lawmakers say only 2% of protected species have recovered, despite billions of dollars in federal and state spending.

A group of GOP lawmakers released a report today proposing changes to the Endangered Species Act, which was enacted by President Richard Nixon in 1973.

They want to put restrictions on lawsuits from environmentalists and give states more authority over endangered species within their borders.

"This is just another attempt by special interests in Washington to undermine the Endangered Species Act," said Derek Goldman is the Northern Rockies Representative with the Endangered Species Coalition.

Goldman said the federal law has been hugely successful, as only 10 species have gone extinct since it was passed forty years ago.

"And what we really need to do is make decisions based on science, not politics."

Goldman says 13 different species are protected by the federal law in Montana, and many have completely recovered, including the bald eagle.

"And of course, the gray wolf most recently, and arguably one of the greatest American wildlife conservation success stories," Goldman said.

Throughout the years, opponents of the act said the law has severely hampered the logging industry. Officials say a decision whether or not to protect sage grouse could affect oil and gas production and agriculture in the western states next year.

Still, national experts who track the law said it's unlikely Republicans' calls for change to the act would succeed because of the strong divide between political parties in DC.

Goldman adds, the law is strongly backed by environmental groups nationwide, and has cross-party support in Montana.

"We owe it to our children and our great grandchildren to protect endangered species and the special places they call home."

Experts said previous attempts to change the law in the 1990's and within the last decade have failed.

The Endangered Species Act protects more than 1,500 types of plants and animals in the U.S.

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