With all due respect to state Sen. Bill Monning ("The 45th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act," Dec. 6), if you look back to the listing of sea otters in California as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1977, you would find that the state of California did not support this listing. The reasons cited were: The population was increasing under state protection, there was no significant disease, and there was no immediate threat.
Sea otter advocates claimed that the population was at risk of being affected by an oil spill. Well, in 40 years, this has not happened. What did happen is the sacrifice of a number of valuable fisheries to protect the sea otter from an oil spill—abalone, sea urchin, clams, and halibut worth hundreds of millions of dollars annually to coastal communities.
I had an opportunity to appear before congress in 1985 on sea otters and the ESA. At this hearing, Sir David Attenborough was on the panel before me. In his testimony, Sir Attenborough identified that our human bias was in favor of blunt-nosed, brown-eyed, fur-bearing animals, over invertebrates. What has actually taken place under the ESA is making life more difficult for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen while swelling government bureaucratic ranks producing "recovery plans" for these animals. Some of these plans cost millions. Examples include: plans for the Atlantic green turtle, which cost $88.2 million, and the loggerhead turtle, for $85.9 million ("Going Broke," National Wilderness Institute, 1994). These financial investments did nothing to directly protect and/or help animals.
Some of these "protected animals" were later determined to not really be "endangered." American alligators, for example. This is why the U.S. Senate and House are currently overhauling the ESA.
Steven L. Rebuck
San Luis Obispo