I’m a rancher, and I support the Endangered Species Act

In a recent op-ed for The Hill, Robert Henneke of the Texas Public Policy Foundation shared his opinion that “The Endangered Species Act is an ineffective regulatory burden.” I believe Mr. Henneke lacked a full perspective of the bedrock American environmental policy.

As a fellow Texan, I was surprised to see Mr. Henneke forget about the great wildlife success stories in our home state. The whooping crane, the Kemp's Ridley sea turtle and the Northern Aplomado Falcon have all experienced growing populations in Texas, thanks to conservation efforts made possible by the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Though they are still classified as “endangered,” these species have turned the trajectory from extinction to recovery, so I wouldn’t say the Act is ineffective, and I certainly wouldn’t go so far as Mr. Henneke does to call it “a terrible approach” to saving species with “an abysmal track record.”

I’m a sixth generation rancher in Brady, Texas. My husband George and I love and care for the land, the livestock, and the wide variety of Texas wildlife that call our ranch home. That’s why we were eager to sign up as pilot participants of the Monarch Butterfly Habitat Exchange – the very program Mr. Henneke describes as an effective voluntary program that “should be allowed to flourish.” I agree with Mr. Henneke on this point. George and I feel we have a commitment to care for the land and the critters on it, and we are positioned well to do this.

Amy Greer with her husband George on the ranch.

But the case for market-based programs like the exchange comes down to supply and demand. Landowners can provide the habitat, but who will pay for it?

The ESA provides a much needed incentive for public and private investment in conservation.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has a 2019 listing decision deadline for the monarch butterfly. That deadline is a big motivator for participation in programs like the monarch exchange, both for investors like the Environmental Defense Fund members who kick-started funding for the conservation project on our ranch, and for landowners who might not otherwise have known about the species’ status.

Instead of trying to undermine the ESA, Congress should look to market-based approaches like the exchange as inspiration and impetus for more action and investment before species are added to the endangered species list in the first place.

Amy Greer is a sixth generation rancher at Winters-Wall Ranch in Brady, Texas.

Related:

Dear Congress, protect the integrity of the ESA >>

From 15 birds to flagship status: An American conservation movement takes flight >>

“We sink or swim together” in the sagebrush sea, and beyond >>

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