Member of Congress, 1967-1983
Following the end of World War II in 1945, the United States experienced twenty-five years of overwhelming development. Priceless habitat and wilderness was lost in those prosperous years to bulldozing for new suburbs and urban sprawl.
Hopefully, young Americans will again rise up, as they did forty-three years ago, to now tell Congress to retain the Endangered Species Act in full and effective force.
The young people who celebrated the first Earth Day in 1970 changed all that—and the national attitude—when they defeated seven incumbent congressmen out of the twelve they named as “The Dirty Dozen.” When Congress convened in January, 1971, a healthy majority in both parties had become “environmentalists.”
The result was a period of four years of bi-partisan cooperation between a Republican President and a Democratic Congress, and passage of legislation to ensure clean water and clean air. Among all of the environmental protection laws, the Endangered Species Act stands as a landmark. This Act was intended primarily to preserve the habitat for endangered species, and it has worked well. Since 1973, the Act has kept millions of acres of natural landscape from being developed into wide-ranging housing and industrial tracts, and has retained open space for the benefit of our children and grandchildren. Most important, though, is that the Act serves its primary purpose: Protecting threatened and endangered species, including our once-endangered national symbol, the American bald eagle.
That Republicans in the House have now declared their intention to gut the Act is a tragedy. Hopefully, young Americans will again rise up, as they did forty-three years ago, to now tell Congress to retain the Endangered Species Act in full and effective force.
The key sponsor of the Act was John Dingell, Democrat of Michigan—then Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Fish and Wildlife, and now Dean of the House. I was his Ranking Republican, and of all the work in fifteen years in the House, I consider co-authorship of the Endangered Species Act as the greatest contribution I have made in my lifetime to welfare of this nation.