Toughen the ESA, scientists say



In the midst of efforts to water down the Endangered Species Act, two scientific panels announced support for the beleaguered law. Convened by the National Academy of Sciences, the first panel called for swifter action by the government to denote and protect "survival habitat." Panel chairman Michael Clegg, a geneticist with the University of California, says that the government should set aside core habitat the moment a species is listed. "It should be identified without reference to economic impact," writes Clegg. A second report, published by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and directed by Professor Stephen T. Meyer, looked into whether or not the act is leading to a national economic crisis. Meyer's answer is clear: "The economic effects of endangered species listings are so highly localized, of such small scale and short duration, that they do not substantially affect state economic performance in the aggregate." Though the impact of listings might be felt locally, Meyers insists that they be put in context. "For example," he writes, "the recent series of military-base closings have had economic impacts hundreds of times greater than all the listings during the 20-year-life of the Endangered Species Act." The report is available through M.I.T., Project on Environmental Politics and Policy, Bldg/Room E38-628, Cambridge, MA 02139 (6l7/253-2700).