We have learned that ecosystems, not unlike a woven sweater, can begin to unravel when a single thread is pulled out, states James J. Tutchton in an article about the importance of the Endangered Species Act. The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a law enacted in 1973 to help stop endangered species of plants and animals from reaching extinction (Easton 81). A topic of controversy today is whether the ESA is actually working and if it is causing harm to the economy. In the book Taking Sides: Clashing Views on Environmental Issues, Brandon M.
Middleton and James J. Tutchton express their opposite views in an article about the ESA. Middleton is a Staff Attorney for the environmental section of the Pacific Legal Foundation, and Tutchton is General Counsel for an environmental organization called WildEarth Guardians. Although Middleton and Tutchton both want the best for humankind, their viewpoints vary greatly on whether litigation of the Endangered Species Act does more harm or good for economic growth, job creation, and species protection.
If the Endangered Species Act is not enforced and understood, the ecosystem will begin to unravel. Both authors want the best for human welfare; however, Middleton insists that the Endangered Species Act puts the needs of endangered species above the economic growth and well-being of humans, and Tutchton states that the ESA is designed to help and is currently trying to help with economic growth and the well being of humans. Middleton is concerned with the ESA unnecessarily suing those who have property or projects that could harm an endangered species. He argues that the welfare of the public and private parties are not being taken into consideration, and that judges unfairly give environmental organizations the benefit of the doubt. Tutchton combats this claim by saying that instead of arguing that the law should not be enforced, people should argue that the law should be changed. Another point that Middleton makes is that the ESA is putting the welfare of endangered species above human needs. An example of this is in 2005 when environmental groups sued in order to shut down California water projects which caused a drought (Easton 85). Middleton explains that shutting down the projects was not necessary in order to supposedly protect an insignificant fish called the delta smelt, (Easton 85). Tutchon, however, states that protecting species that may seem insignificant is of great value to mankind in the long run. Every species of plant and animal may contribute to medicine, science, agriculture, and other factors that make it possible for humans to exist (Easton 89). Although both authors agree that we should optimize the welfare of humans, they disagree on how it should be done. Middleton and Tutchton also disagree on whether litigation of the Endangered Species Act threatens job creation. Middleton argues that ESA litigation does threaten job creation while Tutchton argues that the ESA does not limit job creation and actually can create jobs. Middleton states that the ESA punishes people if they have property that an endangered species could be using which is not benefiting job creation. If the ESA decides that a species is in danger, they will do anything to stop it including suing companies and landowners, halting construction work and projects, and limiting work done by commercial fisherman for example (Easton 81). However, Tutchon says that the claim of ESA litigation limiting jobs is a false assumption, (Easton 88). He claims that by saving the environment they are saving jobs, that the environment provides jobs for those who work to protect it, and also by providing resources used by many occupations (Easton 88). Middleton’s and Tutchon’s views differ greatly on whether the ESA is harming job creation. Both authors want to prevent species from going extinct, but their opinions differ about whether the Endangered Species Act is being efficient in that task. Middleton’s argument is that ESA litigation wastes money on lawsuits instead of using it toward actually helping the species (Easton 83). In contrast, Tutchton believes that litigation is helping species by protecting their habitat. Middleton claims that the act often fails while Tutchton states that the ESA has a 99% success rate of saving species (Easton 91). However, they do agree that the ESA is not always successful or able recover species quickly. Middleton believes this is because they waste money on unnecessary lawsuits, and Tutchton believes that the lawsuits are necessary and they need more funds in order to speed up the process of species recovery. While both Middleton and Tutchton want to better the process of species recovery, the way they think it should be gone about differs. Considering both points of view, Middleton is concerned about short term human inconvenience, and Tutchton is concerned about the welfare of the whole ecosystem, including humans, agriculture, species habitats, future medicine, and science. In the article Middleton complains about a situation where environmental groups allow a golf course to flood just to save an endangered frog (Easton 86). People who would rather have a species die than drive to a different golf course are completely oblivious to the critical role animal and plant species play in the ecosystem. Seemingly insignificant species balance out biodiversity. Small plants and animals provide nutrients for soil, nutrients for other organisms in the food chain, and are even used for medicines and antibiotics (The Importance and Benefits of Species). All species are important, and where one is lost many will follow. Extinction is a natural process; however, dangerous human activities have caused the current rate to be 1000 times faster than normal (Easton 90). Humans cannot keep blindly destroying habitats just because they claim it is good for jobs and the economy. Many environmental groups are working on preserving species and explaining the immeasurable value they have to every earthly process (The Importance and Benefits of Species). The ESA is the law which 90% of the population supports (McLendon). It also has a 99% success rate of saving species from extinction (Easton 91). While some may think the Endangered Species Act is decreasing economic growth and human welfare, it is not. It is bettering the future of mankind and the world. Even though it may sometimes halt construction projects, limit industries, and cause some inconvenience to humans, it is truly saving the balance of the whole ecosystem. Middleton and Tutchton’s views differ about the Endangered Species Act’s effect on economic growth, job creation, and species recovery. Middleton and other critics of the act think that litigation and enforcement of the law are taking away from actually helping species, and causing inconvenience to humans and the economy by putting the species needs above everything else. Tutchton disagrees. He proposes that the ESA is in the best interest of the ecosystem, humans, and future generations. If we do not protect the environment and the creatures living in it we are not protecting ourselves. Species protection should be taken seriously and understood that it is greatly valuable to the world we live in.